Near sellout crowd shows up for Town Board meeting
By David Yarger
On Tuesday evening, Town of Niagara Town Board members were welcomed to Town Hall by a near-capacity audience looking to show their support for the "Music Mania Mondays" concert series at Veterans Memorial Community Park.
At the last Town of Niagara Town Board meeting, discussion went back and forth between Councilman Rich Sirianni and Supervisor Lee Wallace about spending for the concert series. Sirianni expressed concerns about spending for the series, while Wallace and the board agreed that the concert series has worked wonders for the town.
Several citizens and members of not-for-profit groups spoke about the concert series and all the good it's brought to the town.
A resident from Third Avenue said he and his wife volunteer every Monday at the concert series and said it was "upsetting to read that some people think that the Monday night series should be cut or reduced."
The resident added, "This concert series, which positively affects many groups, organizations and residents is one of the best things the town has developed in many, many years. Not only does it bring top notch entertainment to our residents and the surrounding communities, but it's also become a gathering place every Monday night throughout the summer for people to get together and reunite after a long, cold winter."
The same resident said to credit the concert series to a "sky falling budget is ridiculous."
The next resident from Colonial Drive said the town had come a long way from what he called the "dark period."
"Years ago, this board was engaged in disruptive public behavior ... accusations flying back and forth, and this public did not like it," he said.
The resident recommended the board have a discussion behind closed doors and work things out to resolve problems. He added, on the concerts, "The last three years they have grown. We are about reaching out, inviting others to come, explore and visit our town and maybe shop and maybe even look for a place to move. ... I hope the people in this town understand, we have come a long way the last four years and we are heading to a bright future if only we stop the bickering."
Members of the Town of Niagara Lions and Lioness Clubs were in attendance to show their support for the concert series. The "Music Mania Mondays" series is one way the clubs raise money to help support their involvement in programs and initiatives within the town.
One member said, "Everybody that's in a not-for-profit organization or service organization realizes that raising money is a hard thing to do today. These concerts have really given us an opportunity to raise money that we can put back into the community. ... This is a great venue we have that gives us an opportunity to raise money."
President of the Lioness Club Elizabeth Colangelo talked about the importance of her club volunteering with the 50/50 raffle and said, "Without this, we would not be able to help as many people in the area that are in need. On top of this, attending the concerts as a club of the town gives us exposure to recruit new members and continue the work we do in the community."
Maria Stevenson, representing the St. Vincent DePaul Parish Nurse Group, said that music therapy from the concert is something that can give a lot back to the community. She added that the concert series is not only a Town of Niagara event, but people from other municipalities come out to the park on Monday nights for the series, as well.
Larry Lindsay, attorney at Viola, Cummings & Lindsay, a sponsor of "Music Mania Mondays," praised the event as well and said clients they've brought to the concerts are astonished by the community park.
"We continue to be a sponsor. We think it's a great program. There's great entertainment being brought to the town. I think just the exposure it's getting; I hear things from people that say 'Hey I've seen your advertisement at the concerts; I see this concert program is taking off,' and I think it's a credit to the board," Lindsay said.
Jonathan Haseley also spoke on behalf of Barefoot Christian Community, another volunteer at the concerts. Haseley said, "We do a lot of stuff for the kids at the concerts, whether it's snow cones or face painting and balloon twisting. We depend on the money that we take in from the 50/50 in order to cover that, and the access that we take in, we give away to like the Magdalene Project and the Niagara Gospel Rescue Mission. So, we this as a great way where the community can come together and then we're able to be a funneling mechanism to give back to other places to help people that really need that money for goods and services."
A few more residents came up to the microphone and expressed how much they enjoy the concert series and believe it's a huge part to the town.
In closing comments, each board member present expressed their gratitude for the residents who came and showed support.
Councilman Charles Teixeira emotionally talked about the benefits of the "Music Mania Mondays" series.
"As Stevenson said, the music therapy; if you know someone who has an autistic kid who can be calmed and enjoy the music and be out in the community with their family, you can't put a price on that," Teixeira said.
Councilman Marc Carpenter said, "It's so nice to see residents come up and support the fact that it's (the park) making a big difference and a positive influence to a lot of our communities that have selfless efforts."
Wallace said the concert series is projected to bring in $90,000 in revenue for the town, a near $30,000 increase from last year, and that town residents are able to see acts in the park for free that cost money at other venues.
Wallace added that the outcry of support shows how many people really enjoy the concert series.
"I think it shows that the majority of people don't feel like the minority. There are the naysayers, but those are the people who don't attend or don't understand what it does for the community as a whole and what it gives back. We know what it gives back; I can put a dollar figure to it, but that doesn't even account for what it does to the businesses that aren't represented in the park," Wallace said. "What it does for the community as a whole ... can't be measured. It started as an entertainment piece, but its become more than that."
In other news, Wallace finished the meeting by announcing several notes of good news relating to three projects in the town.
First, Wallace announced the town was funded $350,000 for the removal of, what Wallace called, the "strip mall" at the corner of Grauer and Military Road. Wallace said the town must now take ownership of the property and he hoped the facility would be removed by the end of the year. Wallace also said nothing came from the taxpayers.
Next, Wallace talked about a flood management plan with the Buffalo Waterkeeper for the old Webber property off Roberts Drive, which has been an area with flooding problems in the past. A few months back, the town took ownership of the property, and Tuesday evening Wallace announced the town received a $500,000 grant for the designing phase of construction that will decrease the flooding in the area.
Lastly, Wallace said the federal government reached out and notified the town in regards to the old Army Reserve site on Porter Road that the town would close on the property in 90 days. The site has remained an interest to the town for 15 years and now the Town of Niagara will keep three-and-a-half acres of the land to build a state-of-the-art first responders and preparedness facility that will house Mercy Flight, the Niagara County Emergency Operations Center, the Niagara County Sheriff's Aviation Unit and the Niagara Crime Analysis Center.
Wallace was excited to see the advancement with the projects.
"These things take so long and sometimes you almost get frustrated with it, but three years on two of those projects and we're finally seeing something come to fruition. I think that would be great. The Army site's been going on for a long time to get that up and running again ... it will be a fantastic thing for this town and to take of the flooding in one of our areas is a plus," Wallace said.
The next Town of Niagara Town Board meeting will begin with a public hearing regarding the proposed law imposing a fine and penalty for use of town fire hydrants without a permit at 6:30 p.m. on May 15.