By Lauren Zaepfel
After heavy rains saturated Western New York earlier this month, Town of Niagara Supervisor Lee Wallace spoke at Tuesday's Town Board meeting about current and planned projects the town is working on to alleviate flooding issues.
Prior to the recent torrential rains, the Town Board has been working on plans and strategies to help lessen the repeated flooding issues in the town, he said. One major area of focus includes Belden Center.
"Phase I of the Belden Center sewer project, the reconstruction of the sanitary sewers, was completed during the spring and summer of 2016 at a cost of over $900,000," Wallace said in a statement. "We are currently in the planning stage for phase II of that sewer system, which is the construction of the storm sewers and a study on developing a more efficient storm system that will rectify the current drainage issues that have plagued that neighborhood for years."
Wallace said the town needs to find out where extra water to the area is coming from before moving forward. Also, "We need to develop a plan to take care of that extra water. If Belden Center was a blank canvas, you were starting from scratch, you'd build a retention pond. But that's not a possibility. So we have to figure out another way to get rid of the water," he said.
The town has also been working with Buffalo Niagara Riverkeeper as well as Niagara County Brownfields Coordinator Amy Fisk to plan an environmental study on the property situated behind homes on Roberts Drive, which is informally known as the "Weber property."
"It is our hope that there is minimal 'cleanup' required to bring that property into (New York State Department of Environmental Conservation) and (Environmental Protection Agency) compliance, then the town will negotiate with the owner and acquire that property, which will then allow the town to develop a short-term and long-term plan for alleviating the flooding in that neighborhood and surrounding area," Wallace's statement read.
Wallace said the Town Board has reached out to state and federal officials for help.
In addition, the town is in the process of inventorying and auditing all of its drainage easements.
The process will involve "A physical inspection of each easement and an evaluation of how well each easement is draining," Wallace's statement read. "If a particular drainage easement is found inadequate or not draining properly, then recommendations will be made to the Town Board as to what steps will need to be taken to rectify each situation on a case by case basis."
Also, Wallace stressed that the law prohibits the town to perform any work associated with drainage or storm water development on private property.
"Issues that exist on a particular lot or on the property of a residential home or a business, is the responsibility of the home owner," his statement read.
With that, Wallace also addressed inquiries about why money is being put into improving Veterans Memorial Park, and other parks within the town, instead of helping combat sewer and drainage issues.
In his statement, he said, "Please understand, that the funds used in Veterans Memorial Park or any other park (or) playground comes to the town via the new 50-year relicensing agreement made between the state of New York, Niagara County and the New York State Power Authority.
"These funds must be and can only be used for recreation improvements as they relate to the Niagara River Greenway. Nothing being done currently on any park or playground, including the concert series, costs the residents and taxpayers of this town one dime."
In other news:
•The Town Board members voted in favor of accepting a New York State Department of Transportation Alternative Program grant in the amount of $530,933 toward the construction of a new ADA sidewalk/curb ramps for Fourth Avenue. The board also agreed to commit the required matching funds of 20 percent toward the project.
Wallace said the amount to be paid would be more than $100,000 and the town will likely have to go out to bond to cover the cost. He said the project will take a while to get going, probably in over a year.
Part of the reason for adding the new sidewalk to Fourth Avenue is that, in 2015, a woman lost her life after she was hit by a vehicle while walking along the road. Another reason is that residents from nearby apartments, who don't have vehicles, are unable to get to the bus station, Wallace said. The sidewalk will allow a path along the road for them to reach their destination.
•The Town Board will apply for an EPA grant, as well as enter into a Transfer Indemnity Agreement with Niagara County to both clean up and accept the title to the property at 4435-4445 Military Road.
Wallace described the property located at the corner of Grauer and Military roads as "an eyesore. It has been for quite a while. Our plan is to clean it up and then tear down all the buildings, make sure it's environmentally sound and we will put it back on the market for sale."
The project would be contingent upon the town receiving the EPA funding to clean up the site.