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Elected leaders are ready to get to work for their constituents.
Elected leaders are ready to get to work for their constituents.

New year, new opportunities kick off new Town of Niagara board

Fri, Jan 5th 2024 11:00 am

Article and Photos by Timothy Chipp

Contributing Writer

Work is no longer the future for three new Town of Niagara board members.

Supervisor Sylvia Virtuoso and councilmen Michael Lee and Johnny Parks each took their oaths of office Wednesday, nearly two months after securing enough support in their general elections to claim their respective seats.

Town Justice Samuel Gatto, who left his own board seat for the job, also took his oath, as did new Town Clerk Melissa Cerillo, who took over for Virtuoso.

A full house of about 100 at the town’s Calvin K. Richards Senior/Youth Activity Center witnessed the ceremonies, which had Lee and Parks both excited for the future.

“I appreciate all the residents who have faith in me,” Lee said. “(The crowd) shows they care about their town and want to see it thrive.”

Parks simply reiterated sentiment from after his election, saying he’s “proud to be part of a great community” and that he hopes to “continue to serve the community as best as I can.”

New Town of Niagara Supervisor Sylvia Virtuoso addresses the crowd.


Virtuoso took a few moments before the board finalized its annual reorganization meeting to lay out the new board’s priorities. This includes a focus on bringing new businesses to the town. And one in particular, she said, is finally moving forward – albeit slowly.

“Amazon’s permits have been paid for,” she said. “And they’re going to get started in the spring.”

The future of the project that saw a drawn-out process over several months in 2022 was questioned after the corporation spent much of last year selling off and renting out its warehouse space as the economy continued a post-pandemic downturn.

Virtuoso’s statement regarding the project finally gaining traction once again sent a buzz through the crowd. It’s one that could provide a financial boon for the town’s budget, another major challenge the board will face in the new year.

Currently operating without a townwide general tax, Niagara officials will soon watch their garbage collection prices skyrocket and several other revenue streams shrivel or dry up in the coming years, a reality that prompted previous enthusiasm for such a large project at the intersection of Packard and Lockport roads.

Marc Carpenter, who is beginning his third stint as deputy supervisor under Virtuoso’s lead, said he’s looking forward to learning how the new faces and new voices will tackle the problems and improve upon the town he already loves.

Along with Amazon and the town’s businesses, Carpenter said the board will also need to tackle some public safety issues. It’s a small town by land size, but it’s just one of two towns (Lewiston) in the entire county to maintain its own police force.

Other neighboring towns, more than double the size of Niagara, don’t, he said.

“We have the wherewithal to have our own police force,” he said. “So we want to maintain our patrols. And not just on our main streets. We want to keep them on our side streets. And it comes at a cost.”

They’ll task Lee, a former part-time town police officer, with serving as police commissioner, where he’ll serve as a liaison between the board and Chief Craig Guiliani as issues arise.

Aside from public safety, Lee said his priorities match much of what Virtuoso has laid out in her previous statements. He’d like to see work done to cut down on dilapidated housing and to get the town’s finances in order.

The board’s first real opportunity to affect the town’s future comes with a work session set for 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Town Hall, 7105 Lockport Road. The first regular meeting of the new year is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Jan. 16, also at Town Hall.

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