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Town Board Approves East Tank Bond Resolution – Hears Highway Department Complaints

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By Jann Wiswall

The Town of Ellicottville’s board approved a resolution to issue $1.4 million in bonds to cover the cost of the East Tank water district improvements after holding a public hearing on the topic. No members of the public attended the Wednesday, May 21, meeting to comment.

Town Engineer Mark Alianello said that bids for the project are being advertised this week and will be due by 10 a.m. on June 13. The board will open bids during a special meeting scheduled for June 17 at 3 p.m.

Alianello also said that he had drafted new language for Section 7 of the town’s local water law to clarify some issues of responsibility. A public hearing on those changes will be held at the Town’s June 25 board meeting.

Alianello also asked the board for its advice on a problem he discovered with the Glen Burn Trail development. Alianello had recommended that the property’s gas line be placed 5 feet away from the town’s water line; however, it was placed about a foot above the water line. The board agreed that the gas line needs to be moved. Alianello will inform the owners.

New Town Employees

Town Supervisor John Burrell introduced three new town employees to the board. Denise Richards was hired as court clerk, Elizabeth (Beth) Ensell, Esq., was hired as town prosecutor and Matt Albanese was hired as a new town police officer. All three hires were ratified by the board.

Highway Department Complaint

Ellicottville resident John Kent, owner of the Ellicottville Championship Rodeo and a large farm on Sommerville Valley Road, had the privilege of the floor to register a complaint about years of damage being done along his property line by the town’s highway department. Kent said the department has damaged or killed trees, strewn huge stones and left tops of cut trees and other brush behind. He has photographs of the damage and has asked Highway Superintendent Dave Golley, as well as most of the rest of the department staff, to clean up the area and to take more care, but to no avail.

“I’m tired of cleaning up after them year after year,” he said.

Kent said he wants the most recent mess cleaned up and to be compensated for some of the damages.

Golley did not attend the board meeting.

Burrell pointed out that the town board has no supervisory role with the highway superintendent.

“That is an elected position,” he explained, and the board only has influence regarding the department’s budget. The highway superintendent has complete autonomy in how the department functions and the work that is done.

However, on Kent’s behalf, Burrell had spoken with Golley about the matter and asked him to contact Kent. Golley had not yet done so.

Board members Steve Crowley and Ken Hinman suggested that a board member should be included in the meeting with Kent and Golley. Kent agreed that that would be acceptable.

Burrell added that another resident, Dick Pearson, had asked the board for its help getting the highway department to clean up gravel that the wing plow throws up onto his property during the winter.

Supervisor’s Report

In his report to the board, Burrell said that first quarter 2014 sales tax revenue to the town was up by 9.24 percent. If that trend continues, he said, revenues for the year could mean $100,000 in revenue above budget.

Burrell, along with Village Mayor Charlie Coolidge and the Cattaraugus County Director of Economic Development, Planning and Tourism, Crystal Abers, will be making a presentation to the county’s finance committee about the advantages of the proposed Scenic Byway extension from Erie County into Cattaraugus. The byway has been stuck in committee for several months as one member of the committee, Dan Hale (R-Dist. 6) has objected to the byway due to mandated limitations on roadside signage.

Burrell said he believes Hale is in the sign business. Hinman suggested that, if so, there may be a conflict of interest.

Burrell also reported that the court clerk’s office has been moved to the Town Center. The vacated office in the Village/Town Hall will be used for storage.

Assessor’s Report

Town Assessor Harry Weissman reported that the tentative assessment roll is out and that a Board of Assessment Review meeting is scheduled for the public on May 27 from 4-8 p.m. at the Village/Town Hall.

New Business

Ken Hinman asked the board to investigate what it would take to change the town highway superintendent position from an elected position to an appointed one. Burrell said that other municipalities have done this and that it can work.

Burrell’s concern is that “we have five people to run the town, but one elected person runs a third of the town’s budget without oversight.”

Hinman felt that “we can find the right person.”

Town Attorney Kathleen Moriarty said it would take a public hearing and a permissive referendum to allow residents to vote on the change. If the board decided to ask residents to make this change, it could hold a referendum in November. An appointment could not be made until the current highway superintendent’s term is up in December 2015. She will continue to research the matter.

Board member Greg Fitzpatrick reported that he had audited the town clerk’s (Robyn George) accounts and that they all looked fine.

“Robyn’s books are in great shape,” he said.

Old Business

The board took up discussion of enforcement of the town’s alarm system local law in order to encourage people to keep their alarm systems in good working order and reduce the number of false alarms. Steve Crowley suggested that parts of the law should be rewritten. Moriarty said she will look into options and the issue was tabled for further discussion next month.

The board also discussed suggestions from Burrell about creating an insurance buyout plan for town employees and about developing an incentive plan to encourage more people to volunteer as emergency medical technicians. Both topics will require further discussion.

Hinman reported that the Ellicottville/Great Valley Recreational Trail Committee will be talking to residents along Jefferson Street about widening the sidewalk to 8 feet in order to address the DOT’s concerns about adequate space for the trail there.

The next meeting of the town board has been changed to June 25 at 6 p.m. in the Village/Town Hall.

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