Board announces increase to water/sewer fees; enters agreement with TWC
By David Yarger
On Monday night, the Town of Wheatfield Town Board held its last regular board meeting for the month of May, but before the meeting took place, the board heard from Budget Director Edward Mongold on the 2019 estimated budget.
Over the past four years, the fund balance of the town's general fund has declined due to litigation expenses, a decrease in sales tax and loss of casino revenue sharing. Also, the fund balance amount being appropriated in the past several years budgets for the general fund has increased.
In order to flip the trend, Mongold recommended a few financial changes to the board, in what Supervisor Don MacSwan called shuffling money in different directions.
One recommendation was adjusting the medical insurance premium for retired town employees, which was being 100 percent charged to the general fund, to reallocate the costs of approximately $75,000 to the highway, water and sewer funds.
The second recommendation would result in approximately a $135,000 income for the general fund, but would result in a corresponding increase of expenses in the water/sewer fund, as well as the fire protection and garbage district. The changes would result in about $210,000 in income to the general fund. In turn, water rates would increase because the water fund has no tax levy; and there would need to be an increase in the tax levy for the sewer fund, but it could be reduced by an increase in sewer rent rate.
The tax impact for a homeowner at the current assessed valuations (2019 valuations aren't available until July) would increase to $17.04, up to $503.49 - a 3.5 percent increase. Mongold said the $17.04 would likely decrease once 2019 valuations are available. Mongold and MacSwan also stressed what was presented is just an estimation and as time goes along more information will be figured out.
In other news, the board held two public hearings regarding a change to town zoning code and off-street parking, as well as a 15-year cable agreement with Time Warner Cable.
On the town code change, Tim Zuber of Wendel, the town's engineers, said if a certain party needs to adjust parking to their property, the change would allow "the Planning Board to vary the requirements of parking." Zuber added the change would speed up the process regarding parking, as well as being more environmental friendly. There were no comments and the change was approved in attorney items.
Next, the board held a public hearing on a 15-year cable franchise agreement with Time Warner Cable Northeast LLC.
Town Attorney Matthew Brooks said, "The cable franchise agreement dictates the rights and relationships between the town and this particular cable franchise. Typically, they're non-exclusive but ... it transcends the authority to run cables, wires throughout our town - lets them do their work."
The public hearing heard two comments. One was concerned about the strength of the cable company, because he had problems before and currently with the service. The resident said, "They've told me that I'm at the end of the line - last house in Wheatfield - so when everyone comes home and starts up their devices, I get what's left. That ain't right."
Another resident asked why the contract is 15 years and if the town can get out of it if something new comes along.
Brooks replied, "This is written in the way the law authorizes it to be written as it's only with regard to fees and revenue generated from cable television. ... There are other things coming in ... but it's a non-exclusive agreement. It allows them to sell their product here and us to have a way to regulate it - regulate how they provide it, where they provide it, certain standards they have to maintain. ... It does not limit us from moving ahead in the future."
The hearing was closed and the agreement was approved in attorney items.
In other news, during Zuber's Planning Board report, he said the applicant for the Summit Mall projects has combined the Niagara International Sports Entertainment complex with the Big Thunder Brewery and Sports Bar project. Zuber said phase 1A will construct the two 96,000-square-foot metal sport fieldhouses and phase 1B will transform the Toys R' Us area into the brewery and sports bar.
In motions, the board approved the increase of certain water and sewer rates in the town due to increases in water meters, brass, copper and labor and fuel costs. For a meter 3/4 inch the fee goes from $200 to $230; for 1 inch it increases from $320 to $350; for 1 1/2 inches it increases from $540 to $660; and 2 inches increases from $675 to $860. In addition, the water application fee increased from $175 to $200; downspout and gutter inspection increased from $25 to $30; water/sewer compliance inspections increased from $30 to $50; sewer tap fees increased from $600 to $750; and hydrant markers increased from $25 to $30.
In late motions, the board approved the determination that the Cayuga Drive Extension bridge is a type two action under the state environmental quality review, which fits the criteria of replacement, rehabilitation or reconstruction of a structure or facility. The determination will be filed with the grant agency, New York State Department of Transportation BridgeNY.
Wrapping up, Town Historian Justin Higner invited the community to attend the town's Memorial Day ceremony at 11 a.m. on Monday, May 28, at the Highway Department garage on Ward Road.
The next Town of Wheatfield regular Town Board meeting is at 7 p.m. on Monday, June 4.