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Town Board Stands by Townline Road Decision

Fall Festival Police Activity Reported

By Jann Wiswall

Ann Williams and Richard Steinberg, two of a group of owners of a vacation property off Townline Road (aka Stoney Lonesome), had the privilege of the floor for the third month in a row at the Wednesday, Oct. 15, 2014, meeting of the Town of Ellicottville’s board.

The owners have argued that the road leading to the home is owned by the town and that maintenance of the road inexplicably stopped in 2003. In August, they asked the board for help getting the town highway supervisor to agree to reinstate maintenance.

Over the next months, the board and its advisors determined that the road is not on the town’s road inventory, nor is it on the New York State highway map. For those reasons and numerous other legal justifications, it concluded that the road is actually a driveway, was never legally owned by the town and would not be maintained by the town going forward. A letter was sent to the owners explaining the board’s decision.

At last month’s meeting, the owners returned to contest the decision. The board stood by its conclusion, but said it would table further discussion until its next meeting, pending the highway superintendent’s opinion.

Since then, most board members have physically visited the property and spoken directly with Highway Superintendent Dave Golley. As a result of those discussions and further consultation with Town Attorney Kathleen Moriarty, the board told the owners at Wednesday’s meeting that it still stands by its earlier decision, but that Golley “would be happy to receive dedication of the driveway to the town” if the owners bring it up to town specifications.

“The town board has listened to you, and we understand your position, but we also have listened to the other advice we’ve gotten,” Town Supervisor John Burrell said. “This is where we are as a board.”

Williams objected, saying that she didn’t think the owners should have to pay to bring the road up to specification. She asked for another written summary of the board’s decision.

Moriarty said that the town’s original letter is adequate. She and Williams, who revealed that she is a lawyer, then discussed a number of next steps the owners could take, including legal actions.

In the end, Williams indicated that she expects to file a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request to get the information she wants, but acknowledged that the two camps have different opinions and interpretations of the facts and that she hopes there are “no hard feelings.”

Supervisor’s Report

Burrell reported that the board has been working hard to prepare the 2015 budget and that a public hearing on the budget has been scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 5 at 6 p.m. at the Town/Village Hall.

Next, he asked for the board’s opinion about whether to require some or all of the town’s department heads to attend the board’s monthly meetings. While not all department heads have new information to share every month, all can benefit from the information shared by others.

The board agreed and suggested that department head’s reports could be moved toward the top of the agenda so that they can be excused early if needed. All agreed that is especially important that the town’s engineer, attorney, police officer in charge and highway superintendent attend. With the exception of the highway superintendent, most other department heads do regularly attend.

Steve Crowley asked if it is possible for the board to require an elected official — in this case the highway superintendent — to attend the meetings, since he does not report to the board. He has not attended a meeting in many months.

This discussion prompted a question to the board about the upcoming election and the referendum on making the highway superintendent position an appointed position instead of an elected one. The board has many reasons for proposing the change and Burrell asked if the board should make an effort to explain its position to the public.

Crowley agreed that they should do so, but that board members should make their case as individuals, not as a board. It was agreed that an ad will be placed in local newspapers describing the benefits of making the post an appointed position. The ad will be paid for out of board members’ pockets, not the town’s budget.

Fall Festival Police Activity

Police Officer in Charge Don Auge was not able to attend the meeting but provided Burrell with a police activity report from last weekend’s Fall Festival.

Over the course of the weekend, the Ellicottville Police Department issued 12 citations for open container violations, one for harassment, one for disorderly conduct, one for public urination, one leash law violation, six misdemeanors (as a result of the department’s license plate reader) and one assault. It also issued 29 parking tickets.

The Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Department issued three citations open container violations, three for disorderly conduct and four for public urination.

New York State Police data were not yet available.

Rumors about injuries and worse have been circulating around town, so the board made certain to get the facts in time for its meeting. The assault charge noted above was the result of a fight that broke out in front of Ellicottville Brewing Company on Saturday night. A male victim was punched in the face with a fist and responding officials were concerned about a head injury, so an ambulance took the victim to the fire station where a Mercy Flight helicopter arrived to transfer the patient to ECMC. The victim was treated and released. He made his statement about the incident to police in person on Wednesday, Oct. 15 at the Town/Village Hall.

Another Mercy Flight transfer occurred on Saturday afternoon when a motorcyclist went off the road on Route 219 outside of Ellicottville. To the board’s knowledge, the accident was unrelated to Fall Festival.

The next meeting of the town board has been moved from its usual date to Tuesday, Nov. 18 at 6 p.m. in the Town/Village Hall. All are welcome.

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