By Michael DePietro
Interim Tribune Editor
The Wheatfield Town Board had a busy session at its meeting this week. Amid procedural matters that involved local garbage pickup, a recently approved block grant for a local brewery, and an upcoming public hearing on stop signs, Niagara County Legislator David E. Godfrey was on hand to provide an update regarding the county’s response to the ongoing threat of the coronavirus.
Godfrey, who had just returned from a board meeting earlier that night at Eastern Niagara Hospital featuring state officials and members of the hospital association, said local officials appear primed to deal with the spread of COVID-19.
“Our hospitals are staged and ready. They have procedures in place, the ER is ready if in case there’s something there that has presented themselves. I just want you all to know from the state level to the local level, our health care system is ready to respond, if necessary,” Godfrey said.
Additionally, Godfrey said the Niagara County Legislature is discussing plans to adopt a procedure recently implemented by the state that would require county employees who visit any of the countries with a severe risk to partake in an in-home quarantine.
While he insisted county officials are trying to do everything they can to mitigate risk, Godfrey admitted that procedures targeted at county employees can only go so far.
“We cannot prevent people shaking hands and touching doorknobs,” he said before adding, “It’s a process. But (local health care procedures are) tightened up, we’re ready to go. Let’s just keep our fingers crossed and wash our hands.”
Town Supervisor Don MacSwan noted the Town of Wheatfield is currently looking to set up its own guidelines based on Centers for Disease Control rules and recommendations. However, he noted one of the difficulties in trying to put procedures in place is knowing what kinds of contact constitute a potential threat. While it is easy for officials to denote the threat from those countries hardest hit by the virus, including China, Iran and South Korea, at what point do mass transit areas like airports become a threat themselves.
Godfrey admitted there is no easy answer.
“We’re not trying to scare people here,” he said. “We need to be cautious; we need to be conscientious; but where is that line? I can’t answer that. I really don’t know, but I know that there’s multiple counties that are doing the same that we’re looking to do. It’s a precaution.”
So far, there have been no confirmed cases of coronavirus in Western New York.
•In procedural matters, the Town Board passed a number of motions Monday night. The first involved a deal with Modern Disposal concerning “emergency situations when significant amounts of trash and debris are left deposited in the town on private property for the immediate removal and to be ultimately billed to property owners’ real property taxes,” according to the motion.
MacSwan clarified the motion was in response to an irksome, albeit relatively rare problem in the town.
“What will happen is someone will move out of a house and completely fill their yard with garbage. Just following Building Department procedures, the stuff can sit there for a month,” MacSwan said “People pick through it, neighbors call and complain, because it’s blowing all over their yards.”
MacSwan said current Building Department procedures requires the town to issue a notice to offending property owners, but require a 30-day waiting period before officials can take any action. Now, the issue can be handled on a case-by-case basis.
“We can have it picked up immediately and (the cost) is backcharged to the property owner,” MacSwan explained. “What Modern is doing is they have talked to all their drivers and, if there’s an excess amount of garbage it’s too heavy or not handleable, they are to contact the town. The town, in turn, will photograph it, Modern will pick it up, and the homeowner will be charged.
•Elsewhere, the Town Board authorized the New York State Community Development Block Grant Economic Development/Small Business Program Award agreement regarding the proposed Barge Brewing facility in Bergholz. The grant was approved by the state for the amount of $266,000.
Earlier this year, Barge Brewing announced plans to purchase and renovate the now-closed Meeting Place at 2469 Niagara Road, as well as the adjacent former Bergholz Fire Co. hall, for a new brewery and restaurant.
•The Town Board also passed a resolution authorizing Wheatfield to enter into an agreement with the Sanborn-Pekin Public Library with regard to the town agreeing to fund the library for the period of 2020-22.
The three-year agreement shows a total of $29,800 in 2020, $30,396 in 2021, and $31,000 in 2022, reflecting a modest 2% increase each year.
The Town Board also scheduled a public hearing for 7 p.m. Monday, April 6, at the Wheatfield Town Hall regarding the adoption of a proposed local law number that would add additional stop signs on public streets within Wheatfield.
The next regular Town Board meeting will be 7 p.m. Monday, March 23.