By Timothy Chipp
Holly Curcione, executive director of the Niagara Military Affairs Council, visited the Niagara Town Board last week to discuss the lobbying group’s activities and the exciting future planned for one of only six Air Force bases left in New York state.
Speaking with the group of five during the town’s monthly work session, Curcione laid out many of the approved and proposed changes at the installation, including the impact construction at the main Lockport Road gate will have for the foreseeable future.
Beginning Oct. 17, the gate will close for an expected two-year project. Throughout the extent of the project, all vehicles will enter through the gate on Tuscarora Road, while all traffic will exit onto Walmore Road.
The project has been scaled down a bit, Curcione said. It was originally a $14 million project, but has been reduced to $10.6 million.
Curcione said the base is also looking to install a top-secret facility – not a special project no one knows about, but rather a location capable of handling top-secret information – to better help local defense contractors.
She said those contractors must either fly to Washington, D.C., every day to retrieve the information or drive to Rome, New York, to use the secure connection at the installation there. And those costs can add up, especially if weather or other factors wreck those daily commutes.
Curcione said the base is also looking to harden its runway to provide airplanes with access to the entire strip, a move that would be favorable for the 107th Attack Wing.
Also on the future docket is a return of a fairly regular attraction from the pre-COVID-19 era: an air show.
While it’s not guaranteed, Curcione said NIMAC has requested an air show for the summer of 2024. Approval will depend on the state of the world, she said.
Curcione spoke with the town as part of its legislative update. Government entities surrounding the base in Niagara County, including the Town of Niagara, contribute $500 per year to the council.
With the money, NIMAC lobbies legislative bodies in Albany and Washington, D.C., both for the reserve station and the surrounding communities.
NIMAC also serves as a liaison between the base and the communities, working to build foundational relationships between the entities like the Town of Niagara and those who work on base. With a payroll of $100 million, the base is Niagara County’s largest employer.
In addition to NIMAC’s request for continued funding from the town, councilmen also heard Wednesday from the Highway Department regarding its budgetary requests.
Robert E. Herrman, the town’s highway superintendent, made requests regarding not only road maintenance, repair and snow removal, but also personnel.
He’s fighting for a pay raise for his deputy superintendent, Robert Evrard, and to have access to a secretary in his office part-time to smoothly facilitate necessary job duties.
Those secretarial duties are currently handled by Brandi Ealy, though she’s split between multiple departments, Herman said.
All department budgets will be finalized this month and will face a public hearing, set for 6:15 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 2, at Niagara Town Hall, 7105 Lockport Road.
The hearing will take place before the town’s planned work session, and will allow residents to review the budget requests and offer feedback to Supervisor Lee Wallace and the four councilmen who will vote on the financial proposals.
Before the budgets are finalized, the town will hold its regular October meeting with a proposed six-item agenda at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 18.