Dashineau updates board on parks issues
By Michael DePietro
It was a busy session for the Lewiston Town Board on Monday.
During the public comment section, Paul Torrey, a member of the Concerned Citizens of the Towns of Niagara/Lewiston, came before the board to address some environmental concerns regarding the Bri Estates subdivision project in the Town of Niagara.
As per the current construction plan, he said runoff water from the site would drain into a retention/detention pond, with any water in excess of the pond’s capacity subsequently directed to the Town of Lewiston via a ditch system that eventually leads out into Gill creek.
“This ditch – I walked it last year from beginning to end – it is not clean. It is not even really a ditch and, in some places, it just kind of spreads out on the land. Major trees grow in the ditch, flora and fauna,” Torrey said. “If you want to prevent major flooding in your town, you’d have to clean this ditch system, which would probably be over, I'd say, about three-quarters of a mile to a mile distance.”
After Torey’s comments, Councilman John Jacoby read a statement echoing his concerns: “No proposal for the maintenance of Lewiston’s ditches, streams or floodplains has been proposed, offered or hinted at, giving the distinct impression that ‘out of sight out of mind’ is the primary operating guide.”
In a later phone interview, Jacoby acknowledged concerns are mostly speculative at this point, and more details would be available following the results of a forthcoming environmental impact study. Still, Jacoby cited a definite need for an inspection of the drainage system and said he believes the responsibility should lie with the Town of Niagara.
“I don't think it should be the Town of Lewiston's responsibility to go over there and make sure we’re equipped to handle their water outflow. Having said that, if it comes to that, I suppose we're going to have to send (our) own people over there to make sure we're not stuck with this inundation,” Jacoby said. “I do not want the Town of Lewiston to suffer because of their oversight, or our oversight.”
Town Parks Updates
Parks Department Superintendent Mike Dashineau had a particularly busy evening. Speaking for just under an hour, he updated the board on various park issues as town 2020 budget discussions continue.
During Councilman Rob Morreale’s liaison report, the board approved a bid, pending town attorney approval, for the removal of 33-38 trees at a cost of $230 per tree at Kiwanis Park, or $8,050 in total.
Supervisor Steve Broderick discussed how rampant vegetation in the park was damaging the area.
"Mike and I walked the park and he marked all the trees that are either dead, dying or in very sad condition,” he said. :They dirty up the park. We clean it. (Water Pollution Control Center Administrator) Jeff Ritter sent his crew down there and it looked amazing. Then a week later you couldn't tell anything was done to it.”
Dashineau said the removal process is expected to begin approximately three weeks after the contract is signed. Afterward, his department would be given a "two-day grace period" to notify local residents the area will be closed during the removal process.
Plans are also in the works to install a brand-new, high school regulation-sized basketball court at Kiwanis Park. The board approved an authorizing resolution to apply for Niagara River Greenway funding, afterwhich Greenway would determine whether it’s within its scope of funding.
Plans call for a full-sized court with full-size foul areas, permanent benches, garbage cans and other fixtures, as well as proper underground drainage and impaction underneath to reduce maintenance costs.
The current basketball court location would be returned to a multi-use court.
Dashineau delivered a status report on the town’s many playgrounds, detailing not only their current condition, but also rating their success in terms of their initial design and purpose.
According to Dashineau, the playground at Pletcher Road Park, constructed in 1980, has reached “the end of its life span” and requires a complete replacement. Substitute parts and tools are no longer available, and repair work has become a major expense for the Parks Department in recent years.
In his call for replacement, Dashineau said the playground, initially designed to be the town's largest, has performed well amid an ever-increasing population in the area. Going forward, he insisted the town look to create something that was comparable in size and scope.
“When we talk about Pletcher, and we talk about how we're going to fund this, hopefully in 2020, I am going to tell you that we get a lot of use out of it,” Dashineau said. “Between the active programs that we run, baseball tournaments, and the population growth in the area … I wouldn't want to shrink that down any. We want to serve the community that it is placed in.”
Dashineau reiterated one of the options the board potentially has at its disposal is Greenway money for next year.
On the other hand, Dashineau recommended a complete tear down and removal of the decrepit playground at Washuta Park. Additionally, he noted the teeter-totter located at the site would be removed some time this week as it has become an insurance liability in recent years. Dashineau said the surrounding area has not seen sufficient population growth and the playground is not regularly used.
Dashineau also stressed how important community input and feedback is to maintaining these areas.
“A lot of the park stuff, our work list is predicated on feedback. Whether I'm getting it from the community or you guys … that feedback is absolutely important to us we always encourage residents to on our Facebook pages, or the email,” he said.
Next, Dashineau provided the board data to think about pertaining to two popular but costly events provided by the Parks Department.
After outlining the history and benefits of the Town of Lewiston Baseball Tournament, Dashineau asked the board to consider whether members felt it was worth continuing or not.
Having begun as a fundraiser for local baseball programs, the tournament went on to transition into a way to pay for capital projects within the baseball program. However, the cost of running the tournaments themselves has remained high.
“There is opportunity cost to running these tournaments, (and) there's risks to running these tournaments – their standard costs are running these tournaments. There's always going to be bleed over in our regular parts budget and our tournaments,” Dashineau said. “I want you to weigh those, and I want you to come back, hopefully at the next meeting, and tell me if you want these tournaments or not.”
Similarly, Dashineau asked the board to weigh-in on the town’s Family Ice Rink in Academy Park, which was said to lose between $18,000 to $20,000 a year.
During its first few years, Dashineau said the majority of the rink’s funding came via Greenway allocations. By using leftover Greenway funding, sponsorship funding, as well as funding raised through skate rentals and other fees, the rink has been able to cancel out those costs.
However, town Finance/Budget Director Jacqueline Agnello said the rink only has enough backup funds to sustain itself for another year.
Dashineau said many of the funding problems have to do with dwindling sponsors for the rink.
“Sponsor fatigue is a real issue for me, especially because we ask for money for the baseball program; we ask for money for advertisers; we ask for money for the ice rink. It's not like we’re in New York City where you have thousands and thousands of businesses to draw on. We're asking the same people over and over, ‘Can you sponsor this?’ ” Dashineau explained.
Going forward, he said recreation officials would be looking for smaller donations from a wider variety of sources.
The Town Board announced it would hold a public hearing at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 9, on a proposed ground-mounted utility grade solar energy system on property owned by Richard and Adrinne Piva/Borrego Solar, at 4352 Williams Road.
Also on Sept. 9, a public hearing is scheduled regarding lattice/communication tower laws and regulations. The Town Board’s work session will follow at 6:30 p.m.
The next regular Town Board meeting will be at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 23.