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WHEATFIELD – The Town Board is hoping to obtain another state grant to try to cover a large increase in the estimated cost of a Niagara River Greenway trail that is supposed to connect the cities of Niagara Falls and North Tonawanda.

Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said the town’s engineering firm, Wendel, has increased the cost estimate by $778,344 for designing both halves of the project and constructing the first phase, from the Falls city line to Liberty Drive. Wendel’s earlier rough estimate was $1.8 million.

Town Engineer Timothy Zuber said the town already has been approved for grant money – Cliffe said it was $1.14 million – toward the project.

The town expects to pay only 20 percent of the final project cost, but Cliffe said it will have to float a bond anticipation note to cover the entire cost and wait for reimbursement through the grant funds.

Cliffe said the town has signed a contract for the first phase of the project and sent the contract to Albany in late May. No money can be spent until the state signs and returns the document, he said.

A vote by the Town Board last week was a decision to try to get the state to cover as much of the increase as possible.

“It’s unfortunate that they raised the price of the project. We just have to find additional funding sources,” Councilman Larry L. Helwig said.

Cliffe said the plan is to build the trail along River Road from the Niagara Falls line to five acres of town-owned property near a mobile home park, then cross the road at River and Williams roads, and continue along a former railroad right of way to Liberty Drive. No route has been mapped beyond that,

In other matters at last week’s board meeting, the board approved changes in the density rules for residential developments, limiting the number of lots permitted when agricultural land is targeted for a housing project.

Zuber said the measure limits a density increase for so-called “planned unit developments” in such areas to 30 percent above that allowed in a single-family residential zone.

“It might affect a farmer who wants to sell his land to a developer,” Cliffe said. That’s because the developer would face a limit in the number of homes he could build and thus might pay the farmer less for the land than he might have otherwise – if the deal is made at all.

Cliffe said the upshot of the new rules would be larger lot sizes and fewer homes built in what are now agricultural areas.

The board also scheduled a public hearing for 7:15 p.m. June 23 on an excavation permit for Sean Schott, who wants to dig a 0.37-acre pond on his property on Hunt Street in Bergholz. A variance also would be needed, said Kristin Savard of Advanced Design Group, who is working with Schott.

Savard told the board that Schott will post a bond to pay for road damage that might be caused from hauling the dirt away.

The board accepted the resignation of Greg Martin as deputy highway superintendent and created a new motor equipment operator post for him, contingent on the approval of the Niagara County personnel officer. The new position, unlike the old one, would be part of the Teamsters Union.

The town has approved a contract amendment allowing union members like Martin who become department heads or deputy department heads to continue accumulating union seniority.

The board authorized the Wheatfield Lions Club to operate the concession stand in Fairmount Park this summer. Cliffe abstained on the vote because he is a member of the club, along with several other town officials.

The board appropriated $120,000 to pay for replacement of gutters and curbs on Craig Drive, which Cliffe said is an example of a street built in a wetland.

He made the remark in response to a question about whether the town will spray for mosquitoes this year. The answer appears to be no.

“The spraying of mosquitoes is a feel-good measure,” the supervisor said. “It doesn’t do anything to affect the larvae … Three or four days later, they come back.”

He commented: “We probably have half the wetlands in Niagara County … That’s part of our problem. We build houses in between wetlands.”

The town budgeted $25,000 for mosquito control this year, but it was supposed to be part of a joint program with the county. However, the county has shown no interest in taking part.

Cliffe said he has been told no one ever has died from a mosquito-borne illness in Niagara County, and his fellow supervisors told him the bugs are “a nuisance, not a hazard.”

“If a number of kids get sick from mosquitoes, maybe we’ll start seeking some help,” Cliffe said.

The board voted to increase its maximum appropriation for the services of Matrix Environmental Technologies from $10,000 to $25,000. The Orchard Park firm is helping prepare a revised biosolids law in response to the Quasar Energy Group controversy, a law that may be ready for a vote at the June 23 Town Board meeting.

email: tprohaska@buffnews,com