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More fallout for Amherst supervisor

   There's no love lost between Amherst Town Supervisor Satish Mohan and the town's union leadership.

   But Mohan's personal involvement in contract negotiations with town highway and police union leaders has been described as a terrible experience by most everyone. Wheeling and dealing has never been a strength of Mohan's, who has stated his belief that unions should simply give up their perks and fringe benefits because it's the morally right thing to do.

   When Council Member Guy Marlette asked to be allowed to negotiate a contract settlement with the Amherst Police Club to try and avert an arbitration decision next month, Mohan said he believed Marlette might be able to take advantage of his goodwill with the Police Department to reach an agreement favorable to the town. Marlette had been endorsed by the police union when he ran for his seat last year.

   But when the negotiated contract came back with concessions that Mohan considered seriously Lacking, he went on the attack, publicly accusing Marlette - without evidence - of "corruption" and a conflict of interest.

   The police contract does include a number of cost-saving concessions, primarily affecting newer police officers, but it maintains major police benefits like fully covered health insurance for most officers and the ability to cash out 330 days of sick pay upon retirement.

   Was Mohan right to verbalize his personal suspicions in this case, or did he cross the line?

   -- Sandra Tan

Things that make you go, "Huh?"

   A copy editor here asked me a while back whether Eggertsville extended west of Bailey Avenue. While I was pondering that, I dropped my daughter off at a soccer game at a school in the Town of Tonawanda and came across one of the 7 mph speed limit signs.

   It didn't take me long to come up with some other questions I couldn't answer and today's column is the result.

   I'm sure there are lots more questions out there. If you've got one, let me know and I'll try to find the answer. Or provide the answer too if you know it.

   --- Bruce Andriatch

The view from the OP principal's office

   Robert P. Farwell Jr. will be retiring this summer as principal of one of the largest high schools in the area, Orchard Park Central.

   Some notes from the world of Bob Farwell, who has spent the last 28 years at Orchard Park High:

   -- The book he will leave in the high school library is "Boom! Voices of the Sixties" by Tom Brokaw.

   "That's what I'd like to tell my students: make a difference. It's like I tell employees, if you're not making mistakes, you're not doing the job."

   --  On the buses that start unloading students about 7 a.m.: "The big yellow limousines come and drop off satisfied customers on a daily basis."

   -- How students have changed:

   "I see a greater disregard for truth when you're in trouble."

   The cliques in 1980 were much stronger, he says. "You went into the cafeteria in 1980, you could see the groups. There were the preppy kids, here were the jocks, here were the motor heads.  Now when you walk in the cafeteria, there are still groups, but you can't tell who comes from a very wealthy family and who doesn't."

   Dress is much more casual, which has caused some problems. But the man who doesn't like rules doesn't put much stock in the "no skirts shorter than the end of your fingertips" rule of thumb. "Three young ladies wearing the same outfit, purchased at the same place, and somebody has shorter arms or longer legs or whatever, and one student has to go home and the other one doesn't?"

   -- On dealing with drugs and alcohol: It comes with the job, he says, and is something he won't miss.

   "I've attended too many wakes and funerals of kids. We're going to do everything we can to make sure it doesn't happen."

   -- Barbara O'Brien

Giving their support

   It's not easy to be a non-conformist, to hold fast to an opinion that you know will be unpopular with a lot of people.

   That's true in high school, it's true in the corporate world and it's true when it could pit neighbor against neighbor, as is the case when a community grapples with the ramifications of a new building development.

   I wrote in my column today that we often hear about the neighborhood opposition to these projects - in this case, Benderson's Amherst Town Centre project - so much so that we assign them terms like NIMBY, Not in My Back Yard. We think of them as the other side of the story.

   But sometimes there's a third side to the story, the side that we don't hear about as much. Call them PIIMBY - Put It In My Back Yard.

   They can't wait until the new drug store opens. They look forward to having new neighbors who will move into the new subdivision behind their property. They're happy that something is going to go on that vacant piece of land.

   They're harder to find and less likely to talk, but they're out there.

   --- Bruce Andriatch

Winning the next round

   After months of aggressive lobbying by Benderson Development (developer in favor) and the Fairways Group (neighborhood residents against) regarding the proposed Amherst Town Centre development, the Town Board voted 4-3 Monday to give the project the green light.

   Hundreds of people showed up in Sweet Home High School to voice their support or opposition. Sixty people spoke, but it seemed everyone else found their voice in cheers and boos reminiscent of a boxing match.

   Monday's meeting seemed, at times, like a big, verbal brawl, with project supporters ultimately coming out on top. Opponents warn, however, that the fight's not over. Lawyers will be donning the gloves next.

   Did the Town Board do the right thing in approving the project, or are opponents doing the right thing in continuing to fight it?

-- Sandra Tan

   

A musical interlude

   Gail Leary jokes about how emotional she will be when she leads her East Aurora pupils in song for the last time this Sunday. When I interviewed her for my column today, I suggested that she might want to stay away from the film "Mr. Holland's Opus" for a while.

   But it's not a stretch to understand why she feels this way. Teachers develop a special bond with the children they spend time with. There's a reason they use the term "my kids" the same way a parent would about his or her own children.

   We hope that teachers take such an intense interest in those young lives, because next to parents, no one spends more time with your children. And in many cases, the teacher might be the child's main role model.

   I suspect that a lot of the people who come to East Aurora High School Sunday to say goodbye to Mrs. Leary will be there because of that connection.

   So my question is: Did you have a teacher like that? What did he or she mean to you?

   --- Bruce Andriatch

 

Hamburg skating into the future?

     The possible conversion of Hamburg’s town-owned ice arena on Lakeview Road to a private operation hasn’t drawn much attention yet in part because it hasn’t gone too far. The town has asked the state for “alienation” rights for the site, so it could lease it to a private operator.

   If it gets the OK, then the Town Board has to decide whether it wants to go ahead with it.

   But the fact remains that the town has taken that first step, which could lead to a second sheet of ice and other new construction at the former missile base. If it happens, the developer would operate the arena, but the town would keep ownership of it all.

   Is that a good idea? The Town Board says it will decide that when it gets word back from the state on alienation. But there’s no need for you to wait. What do you think?

   --- Elmer Ploetz