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Panel allows sidewalk spending from parks fund

WHEATFIELD -- The Town of Lewiston will be able to spend more than $800,000 from a parks and recreation fund on three projects, including 5,700 linear feet of new sidewalks, thanks to a vote this afternoon from a panel of eight governmental bodies.

The Host Community Standing Committee, without a single dissenting vote cast, agreed to allow the town to fund the projects, during a meeting in the Niagara County Center for Economic Development on Inducon Drive.

Aside from the sidewalk project in Sanborn, Lewiston officials received approval for improvements at Kiwanis Park on Oxbow Lane, and a 5,000-square-foot expansion for the Sanborn Area Historical Society.

The three projects were endorsed by the Niagara River Greenway Commission on May 18.

The standing committee consists of the New York Power Authority, Niagara County, the City of Niagara Falls, the towns of Niagara and Lewiston, and the school districts of Niagara Falls, Lewiston-Porter and Niagara-Wheatfield.

The standing committee controls $3 million in annual funding as part of the members' Greenway fund for parks and recreation projects. Lewiston's share of the fund is $510,000 per year.

The funding comes through a settlement with the Power Authority for the relicensing of the Niagara Power Project. That settlement provides for $9 million in annual funding for Greenway projects, money which is controlled by four standing committees.

Aside from the Power Authority, the seven members of the Host Community Standing Committee, which had been known as the Niagara Power Coalition, also share a $5 million fund for capital projects.

Lewiston's annual share of that fund is $850,000.

8:59 a.m. Thursday: Here's the version of this story that appeared in today's edition.

2:43 p.m. Wednesday: When asked why the town did not seek to pay for the sidewalks with money from the capital fund, Lewiston Supervisor Steven L. Reiter said he believes the project fits criteria established for Greenway projects.

The town has other projects, like water and sewer line work, for which the capital projects fund can be used.

"We were just trying to judiciously use our funds in the most productive way to support the town," Reiter said.

The sidewalks are to be installed on Saunders Settlement Road and Buffalo Street, according to the town's application.

2:13 p.m. Wednesday: A fourth proposal from the town, to create a dog park on Lewiston Pleateau, was tabled after procedural concerns were raised. Some standing committee members said they thought the panel should wait to vote until 90 days had passed from the time the town submitted its application to the Greenway Commission.

In recent Greenway matters, the state parks agency and the Power Authority last week voted to spend $1.1 million in Niagara River Greenway funds on a pair of new comfort stations in two state parks in Niagara County.

Here's a blog post on the Greenway Commission's May 18 endorsements, which include the Lewiston proposals and links to each application document.

Here's the Power Authority's Web site for relicensing issues.

--Aaron Besecker

Greenway projects in Buffalo, Niagara County endorsed

1812garden for web
Christopher Brown of Buffalo looks over a historical informational display during a ceremony on Sunday to dedicate the First U.S. War of 1812  Bicentennial Peace Garden, at 269 Dearborn St. in Buffalo. A new proposal for the neighborhood, which calls for a multi-purpose trail, has been endorsed by the Niagara River Greenway Commission. (Charles Lewis / Buffalo News)

Eight projects have received the endorsement of the Niagara River Greenway Commission, a move that opens the door to millions in available funding.

The commission tabled one project -- a proposed dog park in Lewiston -- when it met Tuesday.

Once a project is endorsed by the commission, the applicant can make a request to any of the several standing committees which control $9 million in annual funding specifically for Greenway projects.

The Greenway Commission authored a 2008 master plan for a series of interconnected parks, trails and green spaces along the Niagara River from Buffalo to Youngstown.

Here are the projects that were endorsed Tuesday, though the vote tallys of the commission were not immediately available:

War of 1812 Trail in Black Rock - Buffalo
The proposal calls for a the development of a multi-purpose trail highlighting spots of historic significance to the War of 1812 in Buffalo's Black Rock neighborhood. The project, which would include sites on Niagara, Amherst, Hamilton and Dearborn streets, has a total budget of $115,000, according to the organization's application. The project is a collaboration between the Black Rock Riverside Good Neighbor Planning Alliance, the Dearborn Street Community Association, the Northwest Buffalo Community Association and the City of Buffalo. Read the full proposal here.

Education and Interpretive Center at Joseph Davis State Park - Lewiston
A $195,000 project to improve avian habitat in the state park in Lewiston, as well as build interpretive facilities on the site. It is a collaboration between Audubon New York, the state parks office and the Buffalo Audubon Society. Click here to read the full proposal.

Comfort station at Fort Niagara State Park soccer field - Youngstown
The state parks office wants to build a new comfort station that is closer to the playing fields and that will be open year-round. The estimated cost for the project is $560,000, according to the agency's application. Here's the full proposal.

Comfort station at Four Mile Creek State Park - Porter
State parks officials want to replace an existing comfort station at a total estimated cost of $540,000, according to the agency's application. Read the full proposal here.

Kiwanis Park improvements - Lewiston
Town officials want to install a new safety surface on the ground, add a multi-use court, separate park equipment based on ages of users, and make the park compliant with the American's with Disabilities Act. Total estimated cost for the project for the park on Oxbow Lane is $240,275, according to the town's application. Read the full proposal here.

Sanborn streetscape improvements
Town of Lewiston officials want to build 5,700 linear feet of sidewalk on Saunders Settlement Road and Buffalo Street in Sanborn. The project's estimated cost is $323,799, according to the town's application. Click here for the full proposal.

Sanborn Area Historical Society expansion

The organization wants to build a 5,000-square-foot building that will include a museum and artifact display area, according to the group's application. The $260,000 project will make improvements for bus and emergency entrances, as well as make the complex compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Here's the full proposal.

Village of Lewiston Historic Piper Law Office

The village moved the historic building across Center Street into Academy Park last year. Officials are looking for $54,000 to renovate the building to open a welcome center. Read the full proposal here.

Here's the project that was tabled:

Town of Lewiston dog park
Town officials have proposed creating an off-leash dog park on 1.3 acres at the Lewiston Plateau. The total cost of the project would be $51,500, including costs for fencing, landscaping and amenities. There will be separate sections of the park for big and small dogs, according to the town's application. Annual maintenance will be paid for by the town. Click here to read the full proposal.

--Aaron Besecker

Niagara County farmer among those calling for immigration reform

Jim Bittner of Singer Farms in Appleton was one of several farmers who called for immigration reform during a meeting with federal representatives on Tuesday, according to The Batavia Daily News.

Aggressive enforcement of immigration laws, Bittner said, has turned many local farms into "war zones," the newspaper reported today.

The discussion was part of a session with Rep. Chris Lee's agriculture advisory committee.

Here's the entire Daily News' story.

--Aaron Besecker

Brosius on tap for top North Tonawanda parks job

North Tonawanda Mayor Robert G. Ortt has apparently selected Recreation Supervisor Patricia A. Brosius to become the next head of the city parks department.

City lawmakers will review the appointment when they meet tonight in City Hall.Whitehead jerry headshot

Brosius, a department employee since 1977 and recreation supervisor since 2001, has been running the  department with Maintenance Supervisor Larry W. Kuebler since former director Jerome P. Whitehead (pictured at right) retired in March 2009.

For some background on the issue, here's a report from Dec. 2 when the Council blocked Brosius' appointment. A week later, lawmakers met with Brosius and said they needed more time to study the situation. Two new members have come onto the Council since that time.

There are a few other issues on tonight's agenda, including a resolution sponsored by mayor and Council to oppose a wetlands designation by the state Department of Environmental Conservation. In March, Ortt came under fire for an e-mail to the city's Environmental Committee which some saw as a request for a "rubber stamp" in its review of the wetlands issue. That report includes maps of the five proposed areas and a copy of Ortt's email.

Click here to see the Council's full agenda for tonight's meeting.

--Aaron Besecker

Public business around the county

For the civic minded, consider this a peek into what a few governments and boards plan to tackle this week:

Here's what North Tonawanda lawmakers have on their plates Tuesday night. They meet at 6:30 p.m. in City Hall, 216 Payne Ave.

At the other end of the county on Tuesday night, this is the Niagara County Legislature's agenda. The body meets at 7 p.m. in the County Courthouse in Lockport.

On Wednesday afternoon, the Niagara County Community College board of trustees will take up these items. They meet on the second floor of the administration building on the Sanborn campus.

--Aaron Besecker

Ortt issues State of the City

Check out the Buffalo News Live blog for info on today's address by North Tonawanda Mayor Robert G. Ortt.

NT: Lawmakers to consider new inspection fees

NORTH TONAWANDA -- City lawmakers will discuss a proposal tonight to charge inspection fees to property owners who have cases in housing court.

A proposal from the city's Property Maintenance Task Force, which calls for a mandatory $500 charge starting with the third inspection for an individual case, is one of several item's on tap for discussion.

Under the proposal, the city Building Inspector's Office would have the discretion of levying a charge of up to $250 for each of the first two inspections of a property in housing court.

The proposed change to the city code is aimed at providing an incentive for landlords to complete required improvements and thereby reducing the backlog in the city's housing court, said task force Chairman David J. Conti.

The building department charges fees for permits for new builds and additions, but has never charged for this area of inspections, Conti said.

The meeting, which is open to the public, kicks off at 6:30 p.m. with a public hearing on the proposed rezoning of Mazda Terrace.

Here's a link to tonight's full workshop agenda.

Tonight's Council workshop in City Hall is open to the public.

--Aaron Besecker

Proposal to share between NT and Falls

At last night's North Tonawanda Common Council meeting, a city resident asked about the proposal to share Paul J. Drof, head of the city's water and wastewater superintendent, with the Niagara Falls Water Board.

In the discussion (click below for full audio), Christiana Street resident Walt Yaro asks the questions, as part of the public comment portion near the end of the meeting. City Attorney Shawn P. Nickerson answers the question about the Walmart lawsuit status. What follows is an exchange between Yaro and Mayor Robert G. Ortt about the proposal.

In his comments, Ortt says Drof approached the city about the matter and supports the idea.

Listen to the entire discussion here:

Mayor, resident talk about shared services during Council meeting (3:47)

--Aaron Besecker

NT schools - odds & ends

School/city cooperation

North Tonawanda School Board member Michael P. Carney issued a challenge to city officials during Tuesday night's board of education meeting.

Carney, himself a former alderman, said he wants the Common Council and the administration of new Mayor Robert G. Ortt to sit down with school officials and "brainstorm" ways to save money.

"We've got to find ways to be more efficient and to work together," Carney said.

Board member Joanne Dal Porto volunteered for the second board liaison post when Superintendent Vincent J. Vecchiarella asked the board if someone else would also be interested.

Items stolen during phys ed

Board member Frank DiBernardo told the board he's received several calls from parents and students over the past few weeks about thefts during high school gym classes.

DiBernardo said the thefts have occurred from wallets and purses that have not been locked up -- which itself he acknowledged was not a wise decision.

Apparently when calls were made to school officials, parents were told that the school is not responsible if the items are not locked away.

"That's a canned message," he said, "and that's a message I wouldn't want to hear."

DiBernardo said the board has a responsibility to make sure the schools are safe.

Football stadium name

Carney also told the board he received a letter from several district residents who would like the school's current football stadium to take the name of the old stadium behind the former Lowry Middle School on Payne Avenue. That stadium is named after legendary coach George Vetter.

--Aaron Besecker

NT City Hall notebook

Some odds and ends from Tuesday night's North Tonawanda Common Council meeting:

--During a discussion about the former St. Joseph Catholic Church property on Payne Avenue, Second Ward Alderman Richard L. Andres Jr. raised the possibility of the city rezoning the parcel before a new owner takes control of the property. That way, it would be easier for the city to change the use of the property, said Andres, a former member of the city's master plan committee.

St joseph campus NT

(Photo by Sharon Cantillon/Buffalo News)

Here's a story by Tom Prohaska published Sunday about a Wheatfield church looking at the property.

In October, city lawmakers rejected a proposal to turn the campus into housing for homeless youth and veterans.

--The city is working to set a public auction for the former Mirror Room, Mayor Robert G. Ortt said. The process "kind of stalled" on the city's part at the end of last year, Ortt said. The auction will be handled by Auctions International, a Cheektowaga firm, and an auction date has not been set.

--Ortt said efforts by the city and other area municipalities to reach a settlement with the New York Power Authority are "ongoing." Read this story for more background on the issue.

The city is "still in the same position" as it was before, according to Ortt. A meeting of various local elected leaders -- including Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster, Assemblywoman Francine DelMonte, Wheatfield Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe, Lockport Mayor Michael W. Tucker -- was held in the Wheatfield Community Center on his first regular day on the job to discuss the issue and was organized by State Sen. George D. Maziarz, Ortt said.

Ortt characterized the mindset of leaders at the meeting as being "more interested in a long-term solution."

This year's city budget includes $250,000 expected from a settlement. "It puts us in a tough negotiating position with NYPA because they know we need the money," Ortt said Tuesday.

--Three lawmakers said they support a proposal to spend about $1,500 to put a plaque on the World War II memorial in front of City Hall on Payne Avenue. The plaque would thank officials who helped get the monument built.

During an informal discussion, Council President Catherine G. Schwandt, Alderwoman-at-large Nancy A. Donovan and First Ward Alderman Dennis M. Pasiak said they favored supporting the project with funding. Third Ward Alderman Eric Zadzilka said he doesn't see why the city can't support it, while Second Ward Alderman Richard L. Andres Jr. said the proposal may have to wait until the next budget cycle, and that the Council should consult with City Accountant David R. Jakubaszek about what funds might be available.

--Aaron Besecker

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