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Home rule legislation in Wheatfield gains support

by jmaloni
Fri, Feb 27th 2015 11:25 am

By Autumn Evans

Assemblyman John Ceretto of Lewiston is "ready, willing and able" to support Wheatfield in its attempt to obtain state-level home rule legislation regarding the use of biosolids, he announced at Monday's Town Board meeting.

"I just want to say I support you guys on this endeavor. I will fight this in Albany. I'll do whatever I can to make this happen for the betterment and the health and safety of our neighborhoods," Ceretto said.

Though Wheatfield has already passed a local law banning the use of biosolids after Ohio-based Quasar Energy Group began offering its Equate product to area farmers, the law is being challenged in a lawsuit by Quasar.

Support for home rule from the state would strengthen the town's position it has the right to ban the use of biosolids within its borders, a sentiment residents of the town have strongly supported on multiple occasions.

"I particularly like (home rule) because it comes from the residents, and there's no other better government than a town board or a local level," Ceretto said. "You're the voice of the people, you truly are, you're the heartbeat. So I'm going to carry that, to make that happen.

"In this case a statutory law supersedes a local law, so I'm hoping it gives you the teeth you need to fight this battle."

In order to have Ceretto move forward with the issue, the board needed to pass another resolution specifically in support of state legislation which would reinforce the rights of towns to prohibit the use of biosolids. The vote for that motion passed unanimously.

Sen. Robert Ortt of North Tonawanda also expressed support for the idea and announced he would work with the Assembly to see home rule legislation passed. "We must protect the environment and public health as we address the interests of farmers, landowners, and businesses," said Ortt in a statement.

However, opposition to home rule legislation has already arisen from the Erie and Niagara County Farm Bureaus, as well as the state bureau. In its 2015 policy statement, the state farm bureau maintains the use of biosolids should only be regulated by the Department of Agriculture and Markets and Department of Environmental Conservation.

In other Town Board news:

•The board received four responses from engineering firms regarding a town-wide drainage study. The lowest bid was from Wendel at $89,000. Greenman-Pedersen Inc. bid $120,220 and Conestoga-Rovers & Associates bid $125,700. Clark Patterson Lee declined to bid. The board is expected to vote on the matter at its next meeting.

•Highway Superintendent Paul Siegmann asked residents to make sure that when they plow snow in their driveways, they don't deposit snow in the roadway.

"It's hard to keep the roads cleaned off because the salt isn't working very well very now because of the temperatures we've had," he said. "But there's nothing worse than to get a road cleaned out and somebody with a snowplow dumps it right back in the middle of the road."

Siegmann added his department would respond to complaints in specific areas, but because they only have one loader, it could take some time.

•On behalf of Water/Sewer Director Rich Donner, O'Toole advised that to avoid freezing pipes in light of the recent weather, residents should leave faucets dripping instead of turning them off entirely after use.

•A representative from the Fire Advisory Board asked the Town Board to make a statement to the county legislature to vote down a resolution that would allow the sale of certain fireworks during specific parts of the year. He cited statistics based on a 2011 report, where there were 9,600 fireworks injuries across country. Eight of nine of those injuries that went to emergency rooms were from regulated and legal fireworks. Sparklers and other novelty items were responsible for 34 percent of the injuries, and 34 percent of the victims were children under 5 years old. The board passed a motion to urge the legislature to vote against the legalization of fireworks.

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