By Michael DePietro
Interim Tribune Editor
Following the public hearings, the Wheatfield Town board proceeded with its regular meeting. All board members except for Councilman Curt Doktor were in attendance.
One notable agenda item involved out-of-state travel for town employees, in relation to COVID-19. Per the agenda, the motion read:
“Effective immediately, the Town Board of Wheatfield hereby establishes a new town policy during the COVID-19 pandemic, that if an employee voluntarily travels outside of New York state for nonemployment-related reasons, and upon return to this state is subject to a COVID-19 quarantine period due to said out of state travel, said employee shall not be paid for any time missed from town work unless Town Board permission was obtained prior to said out-of-state travel.”
Ward Road and Niagara Falls Boulevard Update
Elsewhere, Supervisor Don MacSwan provided a small, but not insignificant update on the intersections at Ward Road and Niagara Falls Boulevard regarding efforts to make it safer. He said that during a brief discussion with a DOT official this week, it was announced that the speed limit will be permanently lowered on Niagara Falls Boulevard and additional signage will be added to the area around the intersection.
MacSwan also said he’s expected to have a conference call with the DOT on Thursday to discuss possibly expediting plans to redesign the roadway.
In a May 13 interview with Spectrum News, Niagara County Legislator Jesse Gooch said that a large-scale project to make that area safer was slated to begin in 2022. In that interview, Gooch said the DOT was planning on purchasing stretches of land from business owners in order to widen existing lanes and add turning lanes.
At last month’s board meeting, MacSwan shared his frustrations with Gooch how the DOT had been “dragging their feet” on the issue and lamented these plans could have been taken years ago.
Community/Youth Center/Recreation Department Updates
Parks and Recreation Director Mike Renali provided a number of significant updates and announcements, the first of which involved the reopening plans for Wheatfield’s community and youth centers. Both have been closed since March due to COVID-19.
Renali said the community center is expected to reopen first and that he’s hoping to meet with MacSwan and other board members in early September to coordinate what types of activity can go on in the building and which groups will be allowed to use the space.
In terms of the youth center, Renali said, “We’re gonna hold off on that probably until the last week in September, first week in October. The reason being for that is we intend to piggyback off the state and the school district. Presently, the school district doesn’t have an approved plan from the state. … They’re waiting for the results for that. We want to see how that’s going to go. There’s no sense of forming our plan without their direction. So we plan on just piggybacking off them and proceeding from there.”
Renali also had an item on the agenda regarding FeedMore WNY (formerly The Food Bank and Meals on Wheels), which the board ultimately approved. FeedMore WNY will utilize a room in the Wheatfield Community Center, as well as some adjacent parking lot space to provide a meal delivery service to the needy for the Wheatfield area.
“They approached us about possibly using the site and I think it’s something that could be a good idea,” Renali said, adding, “They are partners with the Niagara County Lunch Program, which already serves on-site meals in the community center. In the future, they said it’s possible they may just take over that program and do it five days a week. Right now they’re only doing three days a week. So it could be a good time to get kind of a partnership with this organization and provide food to families that need them.”
Lastly, Renali also touched on a recently completed project on at Fairmount Park. The Parks Department recently topped the walking path with two inches of blacktop and said landscaping should be completed by early next week.
MacSwan also helped with some of the work on the project and offered high praise for the department.
“I want to say, I did spend the day with the recreation departments, spreading dirt over at the park around the path; and my hats off to the whole department. Every young man that I’ve worked with – other than being terrified of me at first – was a pleasure to work with, and they were hard workers. They were great and we did a lot in one day. The only negative side: I could hardly get out of bed the next day,” MacSwan said.