By David Yarger
On Monday, the Town of Wheatfield Town Board met for their regular monthly meeting of August. The board heard from two residents to begin the meeting about a recent lawsuit loss the town suffered in regards to the use of biosolids on agricultural land.
A Tribune article dated May 23, 2017, it said, "Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets of the State of New York Richard A. Ball has ordered the Town of Wheatfield to allow Milleville Brothers Farms to apply Quasar Energy Group's Equate (a form of biosolids) to its farmland.
"This order comes after the Town of Wheatfield established its local biosolids law in 2014, which states the application of 'biosolids, digestate and/or other sludges derived from municipal wastewater' is prohibited on town property.
"Since then, Ag. and Markets has ruled the law as 'unreasonably restrictive' after David Milleville, owner of Milleville Brothers Farms, requested the department review the town's law, as he sought to use equate for crop production.
"In response, the town has provided documentation and information from environmental consultant Matrix Environmental Technologies to support its law, arguing the use of biosolids is unsafe."
On July 28, the town learned the results of the case did not go their way and citizens were disappointed.
One resident said, "I'm obviously disappointed in the outcome of that. I wanna start by thanking you (the Town Board) for protecting the health and safety of the citizens of Wheatfield and I'm just disappointed that, my belief is, that politics kind of won over this, because in reading everything ... I think that we proved a good case in saying it did impact the health and safety and, unfortunately, that didn't hold true in court."
She also asked what the next possible step is for the town. Town Attorney Matt Brooks replied, "The next step that's available to us is, if we do not believe that the decision of the court in Albany is correct, is to appeal them. That's something we have 30 days to decide and something that the board is going to determine if it's worth the expense to appeal."
Brooks said an appeal would be an uphill battle, because the town would have to prove that Ball acted in an "arbitrary and capricious standard."
Another resident spoke of her disappointment in the decision, but was grateful for the board's efforts.
"I do appreciate all that's been done by this board to fight it," she said. The resident also asked the board if they could put "buffers" on the biosolid law, like the Town of Pendleton does. She added that Pendleton's law has not been challenged.
Town of Wheatfield Supervisor Don MacSwan replied, "I think it's a possibility. It's something we'll have to look into. We'll have to look over our law and talk with Matt and the Town Board members and, if necessary, we can make some adjustments."
The Niagara River Greenway bike path from Griffon Park in Niagara Falls to Gratwick Park in North Tonawanda was also a topic of discussion. The trail will run along the north side of River Road.
During agenda items, the town approved an inter-municipal agreement with the City of North Tonawanda and City of Niagara Falls in regards to applying for funding and the design and construction of the trail between the two cities and through the Town of Wheatfield.
Councilman Larry Helwig praised the motion and said, "I think this is a good motion to give the expense of this trail off the backs of the taxpayers. We were struggling for many years - and the audience knows - trying to fund this trail project.
"We received a $1.2 million grant, but a $1 million grant wasn't going to finish a $3 or $4 million project. ... Luckily, the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation ... is coming up with about $900,000 from this foundation to complete this project. Essentially, I think the New York State DOT (Department of Transportation) is going to take over the project, they're going to administer the existing grants that (the) cities of Niagara Falls, North Tonawanda and the Town of Wheatfield already have been approved. ... The DOT is going to package up and apply for additional grants and the Ralph C. Wilson Foundation is going to pay for everything that (the DOT) doesn't get in grants," Helwig said.
In other news:
• The Town Board assigned town employee Mary Beth Long as the secretary of the Town Comprehensive Planning Implementation Task Force. Councilman Curt Doktor advocated for the assignment, as the duties were handled by a Task Force member and prevented the member from participating in meetings.
• The board scheduled a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 20 to hear opinions about submitting a community development block grant application to support the construction of a new facility for Pellicano's Marketplace.
• The Town Board also authorized the chairman of the Town of Wheatfield Planning Board to schedule additional meetings per month as needed in order to accommodate additional applicants. The Planning Board has held one meeting per month this summer, and in one meeting the board is limited to reviewing a maximum of four applicants. The resolution allows the Planning Board to schedule more than one meeting, in order to hear from more applicants.
• During board member items, Councilman Randy Retzlaff asked about progress on the Big Thunder Brewing and sportsplex at the Summit Park Mall. Helwig replied, "As far as the brewery, I think it was in the paper that the IDA withdrew their funding. So whatever the brewery had for the IDA funding, I think they pulled it."
The next Town of Wheatfield Town Board meeting is at 7 p.m. on Sept. 10.