By Benjamin Joe
On their last meeting for the year, councilmen on the Town of Niagara’s Town Board were given an earful by residents of Belden Center on the subjects of potholes, drainage and broken promises.
Jody Parfinski read from a statement, describing the lack of services in Belden Center into a microphone to an unusually crowded room.
“Contrary to what you may hear, the Town of Niagara does not end at the thruway,” she said. “But it seems that way because, year after year, when the residents address the town regarding our infrastructure issues, you turn a deaf ear.”
Parfinski said, “When we elected two of the members sitting on this board, who were born and raised in Belden Center, we thought this would make a difference. But just like the rest of your counterparts through the years, it’s business as usual and ‘shanty-town,’ as some former council people have nicknamed Belden Center. (It) is the most neglected and ignored part of the Town of Niagara.
“Rhode Island Avenue has not been paved in nearly 40 years, while other town roads a quarter of Rhode Island’s age have been paved – some more than once. … We were told that these roads would be paved in 2019, and after months of waiting, we were called liars.”
Parfinski parodied the board. “ ‘We never promised you we would pave these roads this year!’ ” she said. In fact, the potholes were filled in only just in time for the first snowfall, she added.
Parfinski said drainage was also “nonexistent,” pointing to the water bubbles from the manhole on Louisiana Avenue. Her side yard is like a lake, with ducks swimming every year. She said these issues have been swept under the carpet.
“What happened to the Belden Center water and sewer project?” Parfinski asked. “Last we heard two years ago, we were still trying to find another engineering firm, because you weren’t happy with the first one!
“Why, when it comes to Belden Center, we have to rely on grant money to get anything done? Belden Center has floated this town for 100 years. Why can’t our infrastructure problems be bonded? … I feel that, in a neighborhood where there were so many firsts. … The residents of Belden Center deserve better.”
A round of applause concluded the speech and Supervisor Lee Wallace responded.
“Just hang on a second, you can come to the microphone, just hang on a second,” he said to another resident coming forward. “We have already put the money in the budget for next year to do the second phase of the Belden Center sewer project. If you had asked, we could’ve told you that.”
“But we do!” Parfinski said.
“No, you didn’t ask; you could’ve easily,” Wallace said. “We announced that at many meetings prior to this. That money is in the budget to bond that project for a second phase. Yes, you are correct, we did try to get grants. (We) realized it wasn’t going to happen. That’s why we decided to put the money in to bond it next year. It is going to be done.”
“When were you going to tell us?” Parfinski said. “You can’t call? You have our phone numbers!”
“Well, wait a minute, why can’t you call us?” Wallace said.
Resident John Parfinski then walked to the microphone and gave his name and address.
“We used to have meetings about this, those all disappeared, Lee, about the water and the issues. You sat in those meetings. That all disappeared, that went away,” he said. “Can we call you?”
“Yes,” Wallace said.
“I’ve had my mouth here, the clerk doesn’t want to hear my mouth, because I’m loud,” he said. “This has been a problem that’s gone back years. The point is something’s got to be done. … These neighborhoods are old, but you got to understand, these old neighborhoods built this town. We built this town, and I’m not saying anything, because the Town of Niagara should be like most towns, we should be all together. …”
He continued, “I told those clowns who came from the city, the legislators, I told them both, Democrat and Republican, ‘You guys sure know how to find shanty town when you’re looking for votes.’
“Lee, I’ll take you on your word, but I want to see results.”
Parfinski thanked the board for its time and sat down.