By Benjamin Joe
The Town of Wheatfield Board heard two presentations during its bimonthly board meeting, both of which involved changes, physical and intergovernmental, as well as opportunities to come.
The first of these began directly before the regular meeting began when David Jaacks, a representative of the Census Bureau, made a speech with slides in regard to the importance of the census, as well as history and opportunities for employment for citizens of the town.
“I’m a partnerships specialist,” Jaacks said, “A Wheatfield resident, and I’m working for the New York regional office.”
Jaacks explained the mission of the census is to serve as a database for how approximately $675 billion in federal funding is to be spent and where. Jaacks said it does this by filling surveys about population and housing.
“Our motto is ‘Count everyone once, only once, and in the right place’.”
The Census Bureau is the largest statistical agency in the U.S., Jaacks said. “We currently have 130 surveys and programs going on for demographical and economical programs. The census is mandated by Article 1, Section 2 of the Constitution. After every 10 years, since 1790, we are to count every resident in the United States, where they live and sleep most of time.
“The use of the census information determines the number of seats in the House of Representatives and define congressional, and state legislative districts, and determine how $675 billion in federal funds is divvied out for infrastructure programs and services for local communities.”
Jaacks went on to say each resident’s information is protected and will not be shared. Each census worker has sworn to keep any information they gather to be confidential and protected.
“If someone doesn’t know English, or has challenges, we’ll assist them. This also includes American Sign Language, braille and large print,” he said.
“Across the country, field offices are opening,” Jaacks said. “Advertising will begin in early 2020, then, Census Day is April 1. When you get your census questionnaires, you can go ahead and fill it out at that time.
“We’re currently hiring for positions and there’s information and you can apply at www.2020census.gov/jobs. Positions such as mine are at usajobs.gov.”
“Community leaders and folks that care about your community, we need you to go out and tell you friends and family that the census is important and it’ll help our local community by ensuring that local funds to us based on our population,” Jaacks said.
Another presentation was given by Rita Kontak of the newly renamed Wheatfield Enhancement Volunteers, formerly the Comprehensive Planning Implementation Task Force.
“At our June meeting, other focus group members were in attendance and all discussed becoming a part of the group of volunteers concerned with improving the appearance of our main thoroughfare, Niagara Falls Boulevard, in accordance with some of the goals of the comprehensive plan,” Kontak said. “After breaking for the summer months, the group met again in September, and with more task force members in attendance, discussed and outlined the issues to address.
“The following is a presentation of phase one of our ideas for the enhancement of Niagara Falls Boulevard.”
The plan presented to the board was simple, but creative. The group proposed hanging banners along Niagara Falls Boulevard.
“This is taken directly from the comprehensive plan,” Kontak said. “Consider welcome signs on major intersections and gateways along Niagara Falls Boulevard to create an inviting image of the town.”
The banners would hold the Town of Wheatfield seal, the American flag or images of life in Wheatfield; placed on every other pole totaling about 93 banners.
The group had done its homework and presented the board with a sample of the material, a kind of vinyl with slits cut into it to lessen wind damage. The banners would be 2 feet by 5 feet.
“We have been working with Cooper Sign on getting quotations for a hundred of two-sided, 18 ounce vinyl banners,” Kontak continued. “With a 4-and-a-half-inch pole pocket at both ends, wind slits, two grommets hardware with a life expectancy of three to five years.”
Kontak said the price of the banners would be $130 each, $140 each for the hardware, and the artwork for each of the five designs is $80 a design, and $55 a sign for the installation depending on whether it’s done by the vendor or the town. Kontak proposed that, before the project is approved, the group finance a pilot program of 10 banners, about $3,300.
“We currently have $4,000 unaccounted-for dollars, and we would like to use it to get our pilot program going right away,” she said. “The end of this pilot program would be soliciting public input.”
Supervisor of the town, Don MacSwan said he’d like to further explore the idea by sitting down with the Wheatfield Enhancement Volunteers.
“I think what you’ve done is great and I appreciate your efforts,” he said. “We can sit down with the board members and talk about this and possibly add some kind of contest for the residents and youth of Wheatfield to design a banner that can be used on the boulevard. It’d be good to get them involved, also. I think it’s a great idea.“
There were also some concerns:
“As far as maintenance goes, who would be (responsible), because I know when we put American flags on the boulevard, they were beautiful and all of sudden they were becoming torn and we’d have complaints here,” MacSwan said.
“Will the vendors warranty these for one or two years?” Councilman Larry Helwig asked. “Because, it’s awfully windy on the boulevard and I’d hate to put them up and have them ripped to shreds in six months.”
MacSwan asked Kontak to contact the board later for more discussion on the issues.