By Lauren Zaepfel
The Wheatfield Town Board agreed to apply for a state grant to help with costs for the brewery project proposed by Big Thunder Brewing Co. at the former Summit Mall.
The total amount of grant funding requested from the New York State Office of Community Renewal would be $750,000, the maximum possible amount of grant money.
"Although they're (the company) asking for $750,000, it's actually broken into three pieces," Councilman Larry L. Helwig said.
He explained, "They're actually asking for a half million (dollar) loan for five years at 3.5 percent. And as they pay that back, that actually comes back to the Wheatfield LDC (Local Development Corporation), and then we can use it over time for future economic growth projects that the LDC deems worthy."
The second part of the money would be a deferred loan in the amount of $234,000, which the company would not have to pay back if it provides jobs for 54 employees.
"If they're unable to do that, then they do owe the money back and it can be a demand (note) to get the money back right away," Town of Wheatfield Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said. "So, it is called a differed loan, but it is forgiven if they meet their numbers."
The third part of the grant would consist of $16,000 to be used for administration and program cost fees.
In January, John Robinson, a principal of Big Thunder Brewing Co., said the total cost of the brewery and restaurant project is estimated at approximately $3.3 million.
•Cliffe received a letter from Thomas S. Messana, P.E., regional traffic engineer with the New York State Department of Transportation, in response to inquiries on lowering speed limits on both Shawnee Road and River Road.
In his letter to Cliffe, Messana stated the DOT would not reduce the existing speed limits of either Shawnee or River roads in Wheatfield.
Currently, Shawnee Road has a 55-mile-per-hour speed limit and River Road has a 45-mile-per-hour speed limit within the town.
Messana stated a study was completed in June 2014 on Shawnee Road. The DOT reviewed the area and found the current traffic patterns are consistent with those in 2014, which the DOT stated would not merit a speed limit reduction.
"The need for a reduced speed limit is based on thorough evaluation of many factors, including roadway characteristics, roadside development, and a statistical analysis of prevailing speeds as determined by radar checks," Messana stated. "The majority of motorists drive at a speed which they perceive to be reasonable and prudent for existing conditions. Experience has shown that if there is no apparent reason for driving at a reduced speed, the posting of signs with an arbitrarily lower speed limit does not result in voluntary compliance by the majority of drivers. Thus, the lower speed limit results in larger speed differentials which can make the road less safe."
He further stated the DOT recommends the installation of centerline and shoulder rumble strips, which provide vibration and noise indicating the driver is leaving the driving lane.
"This will help reduce run-off-road collisions that resulted from vehicles that crossed the centerline and left the roadway on the opposite side, and vehicles that left the roadway off the shoulder," Messana wrote.
The installation of signs at the corner of Mapleton and Shawnee roads reading "State law do not drive on shoulder" were recommended, as well as cross-hatched pavement markings for both north and southbound traffic before Mapleton Road.
Many of these tasks could be completed by state maintenance forces, Messana said. However, the addition of rumble strips would need to be included in a future capitol product in order to be completed.
Overall, Cliffe said he was not completely satisfied with the DOT's response, as some of his questions remained unanswered. Therefore, he wrote another letter to the DOT.
Cliffe said there is a need for improved signage at the top of the hill, just north of the intersection of Slusaric Road.
"Again, I'm asking him to take a look at the very top of the hill where the country barn (Shawnee Country Barns Antique Co-Op)," Cliffe said. "Those cars come over the top of the hill at a high rate of speed, and when the roads are slippery, I doubt that they can see much down below. And if there's a car turning left on to Slusaric (Road) or someone turning out of the country barn trying to turn left, to me, that's a trap. That's a death trap."
Cliffe also requested about the need for streetlights at "either Moyer and Loveland intersection with Shawnee, or especially, Klemer Road intersection. In fact, it would be best to have Klemer come out to a direct 90-degree intersection, and then add a stop light."
•The board scheduled a public hearing for the rezoning of 2946 Niagara Falls Boulevard from being zoned partially commercial and partially residential to completely commercial.
•The board members agreed to apply for grant money to conduct a townwide inventory and assessment of trees in the town right-of-way along streets, municipal properties and parks. The project is estimated to cost $29,130. However, a grant from the Urban and Community Forestry Program (administered the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation) would provide 100 percent of the funding, with a maximum of $50,000, said Bernie Rotella, town grant writer.
"I think we've got about 60-some linear miles of roads to count, and then that would take us up to about a $29,000 budget," Rotella said.
He added, "So if we do this, this will be a great start for us and then we can move on to other areas of the town as we finish up this."
Rotella said a tree larger than 3 inches would be inventoried.
"They'll determine the species, the height, the health condition of the tree," Rotella said. "There's a couple other parameters that will go into the data collection, but the three main things (are) going to be the species of the tree, the size of it and then the overall dimensions."
He said the grant would also "help us out in the future, especially if we have any more emerald borer situation like that, and it will also set us up for some future grants for inoculations and things like that and tree planting."
Cliffe said, "If we had done it three years ago or two years ago when we should have done it, we would right now know how many ash trees are going to be lost ... and where they're located in the next year or two, three. The ash borer will completely clean out ash trees, 99.9 percent over a five-year property. ... We're now into probably year two of those four or five years."