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Bax calls for public information meetings on waterline funding

Sat, Jul 1st 2017 07:00 am
Seaman to visit July 10 to discuss project; town moving on Cable TV broadcasts of meetings
By Terry Duffy
Editor-in-Chief
Responding to mounting interest in the community on how the Town of Lewiston intends to finance its future $10 million water line improvement project, the Town Board announced Monday it would discuss the matter in greater detail at its July 10 work session.
The funding issue came to light when resident Paulette Glasgow, a member of the Lewiston Taxpayers Action and Accountability Alliance, asked the board for an explanation. "The possibility exists that every one and two-family household in the Town of Lewiston will either see an increase in their water bill or an increase in their property tax, or a component of both," said Glasgow.
Attorney Brian Seaman, who is handling the town's interests with respect to the waterline improvement, indicated as much in his presentation to the Town Board at its June 12 meeting. "... One component is going to be water rates or water bills, and the other component will be a real property tax," said Seaman.
Calling for transparency at Monday's session, Town Board member Al Bax said he wanted to hold public information meetings relating to the water line project, including on such matters as financing. "I know we're going to be having such meetings, but if there is a cry for such information now, I don't see that there's any harm in having more than one public meeting for it," said Bax.
The Town Board announced that attorney Seaman would be returning on July 10 to discuss procedural matters relating to the water project financing as the town moves on requisite formation of a single town water district to carry it out. Included would be background on the hiring of attorneys and engineers, plus funding-related discussions on the matter including the possible involvement of tax-exempt properties.
"According to what I have been told by Brian, there is a procedure that has to be followed with a certain number of public hearings with different steps," said Councilman Bill Geiben. "At our next Town Board work session, I would suggest that he lay it all out with the whole procedure" and get a head start on the information process.
Bax agreed and added, "... More importantly, there has been a concern about the specific hiring of the engineer and the attorney. ... I'd the public to have some input, and basically be able to discuss that in a public forum, with everyone," he said.
"If we can have that public hearing in addition to laying out the groundwork or the timeline for when things take place, but also to be able to have that dialogue relating to the hiring of ... the town engineer or attorneys ... I'd like to have that conversation before we go further in the process," said Bax.
He suggested the Town Board conduct such a discussion at the lead off of its next work session and "continue it on anther date, for as many times as we need."
Geiben suggested the board might want to first hear directly from Seaman directly at his July 10 visit, and then schedule the engaging process for residents' input.
Councilman Rob Morreale also came out in support of hearing the project details from Seaman first, telling the board he'd like to see an actual spreadsheet on costs. "I'm having a hard time comprehending putting some on your taxes, some on your water bill," said Morreale, echoing the mindset of Alliance members.
Morreale also raised concerns on the issue of tax-exempt properties, and how those properties would be factored into a payment schedule.
Offering further explanation, Town Finance Budget Officer Martha Blazick said, "What he's (Seaman) setting up is exactly what it's been done for the past 30 years (funding water line improvements via a tax to the entire town, outside the village on an ad valorem basis)," said Blazick.
"It's all a process. What he (Seaman) is working on now, is trying to get that water district set up to reflect how we have been functioning. Before we can go out to bond, we have to clean up our house. That's what he is working on, is cleaning house. Then we sit down and go forward with the bonding and the issue.
"The map and plan is just an estimate," said Blazick, adding that any attorney or engineering fees are merely reflected as an industry average.
More on this discussion to come at the July 10 work session.
In other news from Monday's meeting:
•The Town Board led off with two public hearings - one a carry over on a proposed local law covering electronic message displays or light emitting display signs; the other on modifying the Town of Lewiston Historical Preservation Local Law.
Both hearings saw no comments and both matters were forwarded to the Niagara County Planning Board for further review prior to Town Board approval.
On a related matter, the board approved a lease arrangement with the Wendt property in Sanborn for placement of a planned Sanborn electronic sign.
•Town Supervisor Steve Broderick presented a motion, seconded by Geiben, for the town to solicit three written requests for proposals for the purchase of equipment related to the town's planned cable TV broadcasts of its meetings. Broderick said that Niagara County Community College has expressed strong interest in helping the town facilitate the broadcasts and that he'd like to have the equipment in place by August or September.
Soon after, the board approved the RFP equipment matter.
•Town Highway Superintendent Dave Trane said that town paving projects would be getting underway in July. Streets include Tuscarora Road, July 10-11; followed by tentatively scheduled paving on Watts Drive, Florence Drive, Adams Circle and Fuller Place in mid July.

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