LEWISTON – Union salaries and an unapproved radio tower are generating controversy in the Town of Lewiston.
And in both cases, it may be difficult to change what is already in place.
Town Supervisor Dennis Brochey confirmed Monday that late last week, 16 employees – members of the CSEA – learned that beginning Jan. 1, they incorrectly received a 3 percent raise in their paychecks and are reponsible for returning the sum they were overpaid – about $800 per employee. Paychecks also will return to pre-Jan. 1 levels, he said.
Brochey said he and finance director Paul Kloosterman had been trying to negotiate a new contract with the CSEA, but talks broke down recently and an outside negotiator has been called in. He also denied that the giveback request is a negotiations tactic.
“Our attorney checked into [the raise] and it was a mistake in the office. It was never ratified by the board,” Brochey said. “It was not a legal raise, but I was keeping it going in good faith that we’d have an agreement, but we are still nowhere near an agreement.”
The letter further stated, “Please be advised that if we are not able to reach a mutually agreeable resolution, the town will pursue all available legal rights and claims to recoup the monies wrongfully paid to you in an appropriate legal proceeding.”
Brochey said the Town Board agreed to send out the letter to the employees, including trades workers in the town waste-water treatment plant
In the other controversy, Brochey and Building Inspector Timothy R. Masters are up in arms about a new emergency fire radio tower that went up behind Upper Mountain Road Volunteer Fire Department.
The 200-foot tower is part of $6.8 million Niagara County project to construct emergency towers throughout Niagara County, approved at the beginning of 2013. The project, a requirement of the Federal Communications Commission, is designed so emergency radio systems take up less space on the broadcast spectrum – a so-called “narrow-banding” mandate.
Four new towers were built and three existing antennas – including one at Upper Mountain Fire Hall – were to be “renovated,” Legislator David R. Godfrey, R-Wilson, said last year.
Masters, who noted no permit was obtained and officials were not shown the plan, said he wants the tower to be moved because eight homes would be threatened if the tower fell.
“I think the building inspector should have been notified. We have a tower committee, and they weren’t even notified,” he said.
But Winkley conceded it is unlikely there will be any changes now that the tower has gone up.
“One fireman told me that if we move that tower three feet, we will have to move every tower in the county,” he said.