Town Board seeks design proposals
By Lauren Zaepfel
Sen. Rob Ortt spoke at Wheatfield's Town Board meeting Monday after he secured $75,000 in state capital funds to help construct a fence around the Niagara Sanitation Landfill site off Nash Road.
In 2014, the Department of Environmental Conservation ordered the remaining Love Canal waste within the landfill to be removed, which had been there since 1968.
"For 25 years, the DEC had this site classified as a Class 3 landfill. It said there was no threat to public health or the environment," Ortt said.
He added, "When they were digging up to construct the LaSalle Expressway and after removing the toxic Love Canal waste, they then reclassified the site to a Class 2, which is more significant and does pose a threat to public health and safety.
"This raises a lot of questions for me as a state legislator and certainly should raise a lot of questions, I think, for the folks here and for the residents in that area: How could the removal of that waste resolve in the site being worse?"
Ortt said he is "not thrilled" with the DEC's lack of "keeping stakeholders and public officials in the loop on this and, more importantly, not really enforcing a lot of suggestions made in their own reports and their own data from many, many years past."
He also said the $75,000 may not cover the entire cost of the fence, but if there is a need for additional funds, he would like to know.
"But at $75,000, right now, I think that will go a long way to helping construct a fence this year to secure that area, to make sure we don't have kids, families and unsuspecting individuals driving ATVs, digging up the ground, playing back there," Ortt said.
In a press release Monday, Town of Wheatfield Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said "The grant will help offset the cost of this vital project, and will provide greater safety to community members.
"When the condition of this landfill came to Sen. Ortt's attention, he didn't wait to discuss the problem. He immediately went out and found a major part of the solution. It's now up to the Town of Wheatfield to get the fencing completed."
Ortt said the DEC does not anticipate any real work to be done on the site until 2017. It plans to conduct its report and review of the site this year, as the exact extent of contamination is still unknown.
"So you're talking about at least a year, if not more, that site will be as is. We have to secure it, we have to make sure we limit public access to that site knowing what we know now and knowing that we still don't know really the extent or how bad it is," Ortt said.
He then thanked the board for being proactive on the issue.
Deputy Supervisor Larry L. Helwig said, "Sen. Ortt, I think you were as much proactive on this as we were, but the Town Board thanks you and I'm sure the residents in that area thank you (for making) their area a little bit more safer."
The board will seek proposals for the design of the fence and associated signage from four local engineering firms, including Wendel, GHD, Hatch Mott McDonald and Clark Patterson Lee.
Board approves public hearing for company grant application
After hearing a presentation on Jacob's Ladder, an exercise equipment manufacturing company, the board agreed to schedule a public hearing at 7 p.m. March 21 on whether or not the town should apply for an Office of Community Renewal grant on the company's behalf.
Since 2004, the company has been operating out of two locations in the Wurlitzer building at 908 Niagara Falls Blvd., North Tonawanda.
Recently, the company purchased the building at 6292 Walmore Road, which would provide more space for manufacturing.
"We are in the process of renovating that building to bring it to a point where we can move our operations from the Wurlitzer building into the Walmore building," Jacob's Ladder President Bob Palka said.
During this period, the company has learned of an Office of Community Renewal grant loan, which the town would need to apply for on behalf of the company.
"The reason why we are here is that the New York State Office of Community Renewal doesn't grant directly to the businesses. .... A municipality has to apply for the money on behalf of the project," said Chuck Bell, representing Jacob's Ladder and partner/senior vice president at Harrison Place Studio. "We thought that this might be a really good opportunity for the Town of Wheatfield to start pursuing this kind of funding in the future and really create the groundwork to help, not only on the economic side and help this company, but also create a situation where you're bringing new money in from the state."
The company currently has about 15 employees. Palka said he projects that number will double to 30 in the next five years.
In other news
•Niagara County Legislator David E. Godfrey spoke to the audience about the possible return of the KC-135 tankers to the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.
"Our air base ... (will) hopefully bring our tankers back to the base. We have a fuel system that's been laying there in moth balls. ... The Pentagon obviously did listen to us," Godfrey said.
"Thank you to your own supervisor and, of course, (Ortt, who) personally went to Washington to fight for this base. We need to thank them because (the Pentagon) obviously heard us. So we hope the tanker mission is coming."
Godfrey said the return of the tankers is not yet concrete, as it still has to be approved by Congress.
"The good news is, a couple Saturdays ago, the new commander of the 914th, just took command. (Col. Brian S. Bowman) - he is a tanker pilot," Godfrey said. "So that might be an indication that we may have ... planes coming in. So that was good news."
•The board also scheduled a public hearing to discuss and review the town's agriculture protection plan at 7 p.m. April 4.
•In addition, it was announced the town's updated water bill will be sent out in March, as well as information on how to use a new online payment system.