After hearing resident opinions, board comes to final decision
By David Yarger
After hearing from citizens last Wednesday on the five alternatives proposed for the Niagara River waterfront multiuse trail (see report on cover), the Town Board made its final decision Monday night at its regular meeting on which alternative would suit the town best.
Ultimately, the board decided on alternative four, which runs on the north side of River Road all the way down to the Williams Road intersection where it crosses over to the south side of the road and continues to 102nd Street.
The Town Board adopted the alternative under the conditions that traffic calming elements be incorporated, such as reduced travel lanes, and the town wants the speed limit on River Road lowered from 45 miles per hour to mitigate traffic safety concerns.
During the meeting, Councilman Larry Helwig explained why the conditions were added to the motion.
"I think a lot of the comments that came back concerned safety and I think this will greatly assist the residents on River Road to hopefully calming the speed and the traffic and doing some things to safeguard any safety issues," Helwig said.
Helwig said some people were concerned about the backwoods alternatives due to the proximity of the trail to residents' backyards.
Tim Zuber of Wendel Engineers, the town's engineering firm, said there was a pretty even consensus with all the alternatives as well.
The big factor Helwig addressed was acquiring grant funding, because the town currently has just over $1 million in grants for the project and alternative four's estimated cost is $3,607,000. Helwig and Zuber said they're hopeful the Department of Transportation would take over the project.
"The DOT hasn't asked us to do this directly," Helwig said. "We're hearing things that we need to do to prep it for the DOT, like through our engineering company. So, the engineers are more of a contact with the DOT than we are. ... The DOT hasn't talked directly to any of us."
Zuber added, "What they needed was the town to make a decision on a preferred alternative and either one of the ones going along the road have the better chance with the DOT. They wouldn't be involved with one that went through the backlands or over the railroads, because it's not even in their right-of-way."
A lot of elements went into choosing alternative four and the north side of the road rather than the south, such as property concerns.
"There's less residents," Helwig said. "On the south side you have five streets ... plus you have 200 residents ... there's maybe 50 or so houses on the north side. There are very large secluded regions on the north side. Once you leave Sunset Drive you can go all the way to York Street and it's just fields."
In other news, the town began the meeting in accordance with their stance to spread autism awareness. A boy named Ethan, who deals with autism, led the pledge of allegiance.
Also, Recreation Director Mike Ranalli announced the town's Easter party would be held on Saturday, March 24.
The Town Board authorized Wendel to provide geographic information system support services to the town for 2018. The total authorization was a cost of $10,000.
Next, the board authorized the Highway Department to purchase two dump boxes for their recently purchased pickup trucks. The $15,900 amount is to be paid from the department's 2018 equipment budget.
Then, the board assigned Francine Boore to the duty of Planning Board secretary. MacSwan said the move was done because prior to the motion, the Planning Board secretary had been a Planning Board member and with all the duties a secretary has of taking and typing notes, the member had little to time to input on certain Planning Board items.
The Town Board also authorized MacSwan to sign a utility audit agreement with Troy & Banks to conduct an audit of the town's gas, electric and telecommunications accounts with a purpose of securing refunds, credits and cost reductions.
Town Attorney Matt Brooks said, "Troy & Banks is a utility and telecommunications consultant that forwarded us a contract to possibly review our accounts and perhaps secure refunds that we may be entitled to. They're quite successful working for other municipalities."
Lastly for items, the Town Board authorized Ranalli, at his discretion, to request the services of the Town Constable Department for any town events. The chief constable ultimately has the last discretion.
MacSwan cited the moves as a reaction to school shootings and threats that have occurred this year.
"I think everybody is aware of some of the crazy things going on around this world today and this will kind of streamline things for Mike to be able to call a constable if he has a large event. There are a lot of children there; he'll be able to just coordinate with the Constables Department and have it taken care of so somebody will be there. ... I think that'll work out very well," MacSwan said.
Lastly, the Constable Department announced it would be installing vacation watch checks in the coming months. The checks would give town residents the opportunity to have a constable check their home while they're on vacation. MacSwan said he believed the service was a good move for the town residents.
The next Town of Wheatfield Town Board meeting is at 7 p.m. Monday, March 19. The meeting will start with a public hearing regarding a special use permit for MOOG Inc. The regular meeting will follow promptly after the public hearing.