TOWN OF NIAGARA - A $28,000 bill for the demolition of a dilapidated home sparked a verbal exchange between two councilmen Tuesday night.

Councilman Danny Sklarski said he objected to the town being stuck with the bill for the May 12 demolition because proper procedures were not in place. As liaison to the Building Department, he said he would not tolerate anyone not following emergency procedures for demolition.

The home, at 3045 Petroleum St., was around the corner from Councilman Robert Clark's home on Rhode Island Avenue.

Sklarski said the property was seized by Niagara County for nonpayment of about $1,500 in taxes, but the demolition bill was not submitted in time so the town will not be reimbursed for the work.

Clark said the property was "not a new issue" and had been the subject of board discussions as well as a Town Court matter for the Canadian owner regarding its condition. He also said he had tried to change the demolition procedure several times.

He said he received a number calls from neighbors about the condition of the property and went out to investigate. He said the foundation of the home "was gone on three sides" and the structure was a hazard and needed to be taken down right away because it was "unsafe to the children in the area."

Sklarski was aware of what was going on the day of demolition, Clark said, because Clark contacted all the councilmen and was able to get a four-vote majority, which included Sklarski, to proceed.

Clark denied he acted quickly because the property was near his home.

Supervisor Steve Richards said the county took the property through foreclosure procedures because of the outstanding property tax bill. He said the town would not be reimbursed by the county.

In another matter, Sklarski was highly critical of councilmen who text on their cellphones during meetings. He did not name anyone, but he said one councilman was texting during a recent work session.

The board should consider itself warned, he said, adding that if he sees someone texting or receiving texts during a meeting, he would "bring it to the attention of the supervisor for appropriate action."

Councilman Charles Teixeira asked Sklarski if it would be permitted to send a text that was related to town business. "So, I can't send an email to the town attorney?" he asked. Sklarski said it would not be proper.

Clark said sometimes he gets messages from family and would continue to respond as he saw fit.

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