WHEATFIELD – It’s time that Wheatfield had a separate drainage department, Councilman Arthur Gerbec proposed at this week’s Town Board meeting.
The drainage issue has drawn attention, especially since the record-smashing 4-inch downpour of July 19 that left flooding in its wake in some of the town’s low-lying areas, notably the Wheatfield Heights and Eagle Chase subdivisions.
“Eighty percent of our problems in the town are water: moving water, getting water out of here,” said Gerbec, who like Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe is a candidate for re-election this fall.
“It’s exacerbated by mosquitoes. We have neighbors fighting neighbors,” Gerbec said.
Drainage problems are normally responded to by the town Highway Department. “I think Art’s plate is full,” Gerbec said, referring to Highway Superintendent Arthur F. Kroening.
He has been asked to take heavy equipment into off-road areas to clean ditches and dig pathways for standing water to drain, but Cliffe pointed out that such equipment can only be used when the fields are fairly dry, otherwise the vehicles will get stuck in the mud.
“You’d have to get the equipment, the personnel and everything would have to come out of the Highway Department,” Cliffe said.
Gerbec agreed, but said he thinks three workers would be enough to get the department moving.
He thought a referendum would be needed to set up the department. Cliffe said that would be true only if there were to be a drainage tax.
Town Attorney Robert J. O’Toole wasn’t sure. “The question would be whether you’re taking powers away from an elected official,” he said, meaning Kroening. “I don’t think drainage is part of the powers of the highway superintendent, although traditionally in Wheatfield the Highway Department handles it.”
In the Eagle Chase subdivision, off Lockport Road near Baer Road, town officials are looking for answers to the drainage. However, the board unanimously tabled a proposal from Wendel, the town engineering firm, to appropriate $18,500 for a drainage study in that neighborhood.
Gerbec noted that Niagara County recently replaced a box culvert under Lockport Road, but the main thing that would help would be to clean out a ditch from Lockport Road to Bergholtz Creek.
“Art, come hell or high water, you’ve got to get something back there and dig it out,” Gerbec told Kroening.
The highway superintendent said he knows that project is necessary, but access is difficult. “You’re talking about going on private property and doing a lot of damage to farmers’ fields,” Kroening said.
Cliffe said the July 19 rainstorm was “a 200- to 500-year storm event. It still would have flooded. You can’t design for a storm like that.”
In Wheatfield Heights, on Nash Road north of Niagara Falls Boulevard, Town Engineer Timothy Zuber said the issue is that someone placed a pipe into one of the two retention ponds without authorization, altering the outflow controls and creating an artificially high water level in the pond. Meanwhile, the other pond’s pipe may be blocked.
“We need to remove the pipe that’s defeating the original design of the pond,” Zuber said.