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2017: The year in review (Sentinel)

Sat, Dec 30th 2017 07:00 am
Claudia Marasco and Arlene Sliz at the `Invest in a Vest` reveal.
Claudia Marasco and Arlene Sliz at the "Invest in a Vest" reveal.
By Terry Duffy & Joshua Maloni
It's at this time of year people like to recite Auld Lang Syne, and the words, "Should auld acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind?" in particular.
Pondering the past and hoping for the future is the norm for New Year's.
It's also a required mindset for River Region readers.
Residents know many of the actions taken in 2017 will have significant impact on Lewiston, Porter, Ransomville, Youngstown and the surrounding areas in 2018. Hopefully, the deeds of the current year will produce positive fruits in the new year.
Here is a look back at some of the top issues from 2017.
Damaged docks.
Don't look outside now ... but it's raining. "Oh, no! Not again! Enough already!" That was the mindset of lakeshore property owners, private and government interests, local residents, and the Niagara County region's boating community in general as rising water levels damaged and destroyed docks while delaying the boating season and jet boat operations in spring and summer.
Storm systems ravaged the Great Lakes area, with days of heavy-duty rain coupled with flooding issues. Low-lying drainage areas were deluged while local creeks overflowed their banks.
Historically high lake levels led to criticism of the International Joint Commission's Lake Ontario-St. Lawrence River Board (which regulates Lake Ontario), and the controversial Plan 2014. Disaster areas were declared then, and towns and villages are still sorting through the mess - and seeking compensation - today.
The Brickyard Brewing Company.
•Center Street is undergoing a massive facelift.
Ken Bryan and Eric Matthews, owners/operators of The Brickyard, Tin Pan Alley and Center Cut, tore up Brio. As in, they ripped up the bar, the floors, the walls - heck, they even carved out a giant opening in the ceiling. After many months (and dollars spent), the Brickyard Brewing Company opened in June to rave reviews - and packed tables.
•Having received final approval in late 2016 to build a plaza, Ellicott Development tore down the existing buildings and removed the shrubbery at Center, North Eighth and Onondaga streets this year. The company recently confirmed Tim Hortons will be an anchor tenant.
•Developer James Jerge was granted permission to build upscale housing quarters across the street from the plaza, at the former Fairchild Manor nursing home site. A sign outside his property states units will be complete in summer 2018.
•In mid-November, the Town of Lewiston Town Board, by a 4-1 vote, gave its endorsement to a local law approving the amended Rubino brothers' conceptual planned unit development for a proposed project off Upper Mountain Road near Bronson Drive. The PUD is set to include 107 units, with 91 patio homes and four-unit townhouse buildings on property currently owned by Donald Smith.
•Earlier, the board looked into the establishment of a single town water district en route to a proposed $10.3 million townwide waterline improvement project.
A hearing provided details on the need for the actual waterline replacements throughout parts of Lewiston - a project forecasted to cost typical households of a one- or two-family home $285 annually ($174 in water purchase costs, $56 in real property tax and $55 in proposed debt service costs).
Town engineer Robert Lannon spoke on the condition of the aged lines, the majority being several decades old, and the need to greatly improve water pressure, both for current and future residential/commercial needs, and also for first responders.
Ribbon-cutting at Lewiston-Porter High School.
It was a community celebration in February, as the Lewiston-Porter School District unveiled the signature piece of its $26 million districtwide capital improvement project. A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held in the new, glass-enclosed atrium at Lewiston-Porter High School. That was followed by tours of a bevy of renovated areas.
"There's been some great things that have been happening at Lewiston-Porter for a very long time," said Paul Casseri, Lewiston-Porter superintendent of schools. "This is a great event; a time to celebrate those who have come forward, and those who will carry on the Lancer tradition."
Throughout the district, buildings at all levels were updated, with new mechanicals, windows, doors, the latest in security enhancements, attractive classrooms and physical-ed facilities, cosmetic enhancements and more. "We have made great improvements to our district's physical environment. These buildings belong to you, the community. With this new look to our campus, I'm sure the district will achieve new heights," Casseri said to a round of applause.
Spurred on by the efforts of Lewiston residents Claudia Marasco and Arlene Sliz, the River Region showed its appreciation of the Lewiston Police Department by supporting the "Invest in a Vest" campaign.
The fundraising drive began in July 2016 when the two women expressed concern over a series of attacks directed against law enforcement. Concerned the LPD didn't have sufficient vesting, they embarked on a communitywide fundraising campaign aimed at helping the department better equip its officers.
More than $30,000 was raised, which enabled the LPD, in 2017, to outfit its 24 full- and part-time officers with the latest in level IV tactical vest protection.
Lewiston resident Amy Witryol announced the filing of a lawsuit against the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, CWM Chemical Services LLC, and its parent company, Waste Management Inc., at an October press conference at the Hennepin Park Gazebo in Lewiston.
Resident Thomas Freck of Porter partnered with Witryol in filing suit. She said action was taken to end "third party" ("commercial") shipments of PCBs and other hazardous waste to the CWM Balmer Road facility.
Witryol said, "A lawsuit was filed in Erie County to stop the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation from arbitrarily reassigning tens of thousands of toxic trucks permitted for land disposal to instead carry PCBs and toxic waste in and out of (CWM) for treatment in a vented mixing pit, or to be spilled and cause toxic fires, as has happened ... in the past.
"CWM Chemical and Waste Management cannot operate a hazardous waste treatment and storage facility without a siting certificate from a state siting board. ... Our position is that CWM does not have such a certificate."
Local municipalities have taken measures to support the lawsuit in court.
"Big Bang" at Artpark.
Though Artpark is internationally known as a top Western New York concert site, Executive Director Sonia Clark is doing her darnedest to make the venue's other programs and attractions equally well known.
The largest example of Clark's artistic vision for Artpark & Company was "Big Bang." She brought in France's Plasticiens Volants to debut the show both in Lewiston and the U.S. The grand September spectacle saw a plethora of giant inflatable balloons swirling, twirling and twisting through the night sky, as lights, music and character actors told a tale as old as time.
Thousands of people descended on the park for the show, which also featured two performances by William Close and The Earth Harp Collective with his amphitheater-stretching "Earth Harp" instrument.
Multicom Entertainment Group and Choice Studios Group/Choice Films & Theatricals brought "After the Sun Fell" to the 11th annual Buffalo International Film Festival for a special screening on Sunday, Oct. 8, inside the North Park Theatre.
The film was shot primarily in Lewiston - almost exactly two years to the date of the screening. A majority of scenes take place inside the Barton Hill mansion, while others were staged at Apple Granny Restaurant, Artpark State Park and Smokin' Joe's.
In June, star Neal Bledsoe won Best Actor in a Leading Role (Feature Film) at the Soho International Film Festival in New York City. His costar, Joanna Bayless, also received a nomination in the lead actress category.
Village of Lewiston Mayor Terry Collesano has a cameo role in the movie.
"Niagara 1979" at Artpark.
•In May, the Lewiston Council on the Arts and Corey McGowan Productions teamed up to bring back the Taste of Lewiston. The popular festival featured a taste of Lewiston's world-famous culinary destinations, but also a flavor of the retail stores, clubs and organizations that have earned the municipality a regular spot on "Best of" tourism lists.
•The months of May and June saw the grand unveiling of the reimagined "Niagara 1979," artist Gene Davis' massive "Painted Parking Lot" at Artpark. Thanks to a successful Kickstarter campaign, Artpark & Company raised enough money to faithfully and meticulously bring back 60 two-feet-wide, 120-feet-long stripes in nine repeating colors.
St. Peter R.C. Church welcomed the community to a special Mass in October wherein guests had their first opportunity to view a new handicapped-accessible entrance and elevator; new multimedia library and computer rooms; and a reconfigured cafeteria.
This newspaper, which, thanks to you, has the largest circulation in the area, celebrated its 30th birthday in February.
Cover stories told of The Sentinel's first issue and the team that brought the newspaper to life in 1987. As it turns out, the publication's goals then are the same in 2017: To provide River Region and Niagara Falls-area readers with the full story, the complete picture, and an honest, objective assessment of the news and newsmakers rendering decisions that affect our lives.
To mark the occasion, the Niagara County Legislature (and Legislator Clyde Burmaster), New York State Sen. Robert Ortt, Assemblyman Angelo Morinello, the Lewiston-Porter Board of Education and the Town of Porter were kind enough to issue proclamations of thanks and support to The Sentinel, its publishers and staff.
•Other notable anniversaries in 2017 included Relay For Life of Greater Niagara (20 years), HART Interfaith (35 years), the Niagara County Peach Festival (60 years), the Lewiston Garden Club (90 years) and First Presbyterian Church of Lewiston (200 years).
The Sentinel at 30.

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