The Land of the Crabapple took a sharp turn toward the Land of the “Crabby” in Council Chambers of Town Hall on Wednesday night as Cheektowaga residents chided their Town Board for displaying a “juvenile” lack of public decorum.
Board members squared off with Republican Angela M. Wozniak on one side and the balance of the Democratic-controlled board on the other.
They sparred over numerous issues ranging from the size of the board and downsizing to the town’s process of bidding work and what is ordinarily the routine paying of town bills.
Accusations of playing “politics” abounded from both camps amid barbs and sometimes heated exchanges by board members, resulting in a level of frustration in the gallery that led some residents to call out their town officials.
“It disgusts me to see how you guys talk to each other,” said Corina L. Rybczynski. “How can you say you work together when you can’t give each other respect? Kids don’t argue like this.”
Added another resident, directing his comments to the board: “I think the president calls it ‘civility’? Maybe we could exercise a little of that.”
After the meeting, Supervisor Mary F. Holtz said wryly: “I’ve never used the gavel so much.”
Fireworks were not entirely unexpected as a board member quipped to a reporter before what became a nearly 2½ hour meeting: “Republican or Democrat?,” he said, gesturing to each side of the public gallery inside Council Chambers.
The contentiousness began when Wozniak abstained from voting on the town’s $8.5 million warrant, a usually routine vote to authorize the town to pay its bills. Wozniak announced she was “investigating” whether the town was circumventing a fair bidding process for public works projects in the town by employing Nichols, Long & Moore Construction Co., of Lancaster, for more than $8.6 million worth of projects over the last three years.
She said the process employed by the town was not “responsible” and accused fellow board members of “overpowering” her efforts to conduct an investigation into the actions.
Holtz, however, said the town’s actions – where it acts as the contractor and subcontracts out work – is “legal” and has been vetted and given its blessing by the State Comptroller’s Office. The town, said Holtz, is saving “millions and millions” of taxpayer dollars because of it.
“It’s politics,” said Council Member Stanley J. Kaznowski III, “that’s the only way I can sum it up.”