Sewer rate increase, financials addressed
By Terry Duffy
Lewiston Town Board members held a generally light session Monday, with a number of routine matters handled as town officials head toward the holiday break.
The meeting led off with a public hearing that saw no comments to consider a proposed sewer rate increase for town property owners. Announced last month and included in the town’s 2019 adopted $18.127 million budget, the measure calls for a 5 cent per 1,000 gallons hike in sewer rates, from $3.50 per 1,000 gallons to $3.55. It went on to be approved 5-0 on a motion by councilmen Al Bax and John Jacoby.
In other financial news:
•Jacqueline Agnello, town finance/budget director, discussed a pending contract agreement with Troy & Banks, a utility and telecommunications consulting firm in Buffalo, for purposes of handling the town’s cable franchise/telecommunications audit.
“They would complete (the) cable franchise audit and a utility and telecommunications audit for the town,” Agnello said. “The town has used them in the past. In 2013 we used them and they recovered $43,264 in a cable audit, and in 2017 we used them again and they recovered $15,491.80 in a street light billing error and commodity charge.”
As to any cost, Agnello said the agreement comes with no risk to the town.
“No risk to us, doesn’t cost us anything? And whatever they reimburse they get a get a percentage?” asked Councilman Bill Geiben.
“That’s correct,” Agnello said.
Soon after, the measure was approved, 5-0, subject to town attorney review/approval.
When questioned further by Bax, Agnello further explained the firm’s services: “They find errors in charges, in commodity charges and billing errors. … They take a percentage.”
“We get the check from the utility company and then we pay the bill to them for the percentage,” said Marty Blazick, former town finance/budget director, who is assisting Agnello.
“It’s just going back with a fine-tooth comb on what we’ve been charged,” Agnello said.
She then presented three budget transfer revisions for board approval. Included were $423 covering the town fire bureau account; a $2,500 transfer in the town water department account and a $335 transfer for the town historian account. All went on to be routinely approved.
•Bax presented a motion to approve a $54,648 bid from Lardin Construction Corp. of Blasdell to cover grinding and removal of bush for the town’s Highway Department. Superintendent Dave Trane said the bid was the lowest received. It would cover grinding and brush removal for the town, which Trane said amounted to “acres and acres” accumulated.
The bid went on to be approved unanimously by the board. Trane also reported the town received a $50,000 state grant to cover the culvert work being done on Swann Road.
In other actions, appointments to town commissions went on to be approved by the board. They included: Carl Hoffman to the Cable Commission; Damen DeCastro Jr. to the Zoning Board of Appeals to replace the recent departure of Anita Muzzi; and the appointment of current ZBA member Norm Machelor as chairman. He also heads the Village of Lewiston Planning Commission.
Following the motion by Supervisor Steve Broderick, Jacoby said he had some initial reservations on the naming of Machelor, due to him being a member of both the village and Niagara County planning boards.
“I’m just a little reluctant, because he serves on two other boards,” Jacoby said.
Broderick said he had spoken to Machelor regarding any potential conflicts.
“He assured me that, if there’s any conflict of interest, our board would take precedence and he would recuse himself,” Broderick said.
Brian Seaman, who was filling in for town attorney Ryan Parisi, said he wasn’t aware of any conflict of interest, but added he could “see scenarios where the same matter comes in front of both boards, so I do see that as possibly being a problem. But he’s already on your ZBA, so it’s not anymore of a problem (than) being chairman.”
Seaman said he did not see any distinction on Machelor being a member or the chair if any conflict did arise.
Soon after, all appointments went on to be approved by the board, 5-0.