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SEP 02- SEP 09, 2014

Police Vote, Pay Issue, Tower Dispute Still Simmer in Lewiston

By Anna M. Howard

September 02, 2014

For a small town, Lewiston is certainly having its share of controversial issues this year. Some are new and some are old but it seems none of them is getting solved any time soon.

Village resident Ron Craft has been leading the charge to dissolve the Lewiston Police Department and have its role filled by the Niagara County Sherriff's Dept. He started a petition drive to obtain enough signatures to get the matter on the ballot for this November, but there may be a stumbling block in the way.

Craft has been touting his previous accomplishments when he resided in Minnesota.

But at the Aug. 28th Town Board meeting, Town Attorney Brain Seaman told the board that there is no section of New York State law that allows for any referendum to eliminate a police department.

Referendums can be petitioned for on several matters that have long-term impact on a town and its residents such as borrowing large sums of money or to overturn some of the actions by the Town Board. But according to Seaman, no such case exists here so despite Craft having gathered hundreds of signatures it seems that there are no legal grounds to file it. As for Mr. Craft he is refusing to accept that explanation and has vowed to continue his fight through any means necessary.

Impasse Over Pay Raise Continues

It seems the impasse continues between the town and its WPCC workers. The entire issue is mired in the question of who approved what, or paid what, or was due what. Mark Davis, who is the other Town of Lewiston attorney, is still demanding that the employees at the water treatment plant return the three percent pay raises they have been receiving since Jan. 1, 2014. The town supervisor is also taking a public position that without a signed contract these funds constituted an "illegal gift of funds" that the workers must now return and he directed Davis to send that letter to the individual workers threatening legal action to collect the monies. So far they are still refusing to voluntarily do so, and the town hasn't taken any step to garnish their wages either.

The union representing the workers is pointing to the fact that their rates of pay were approved at a full meeting of the town board that was presided over by Supervisor Dennis Brochey himself. The minutes do show that the votes to approve the current pay scales were unanimous. They also point to the fact that the raises were being paid by the town supervisor with both his full knowledge and consent for six months. But the town's position is that even if the supervisor accidentally voted to approve their wages and continued to pay them to him after he became aware of their being improper, they still want their money back. So the stalemate caused by all of those missteps continues.

Tower Issue

And now there is a new issue to deal with in town. A 200-foot plus tower has been erected behind a group of homes on Upper Mountain Road. The communication tower is for government use only and will be used by fire, police, and for all emergency services. The tower was placed there by the Niagara County Department of Emergency Services and according to the local residents they had no advance notice of its installation. The structure sits on property owned by the Upper Mountain Volunteer Fire Company and according to some of the adjacent landowners is a safety hazard that they want removed.

The recent Town Board meeting was dominated by the tower subject and several residents spoke against its installation at that site. Councilman Al Bax, who helped draft the original tower ordinance for the town, told the audience that he would push forward an effort to find out how this happened without the consent of the town or any notice to the affected residents. It promises to be a lengthy and perhaps costly process to fix the situation to everyone's satisfaction.

So Lewiston has added one more problem to a list that seems to grow by the week, and with no resolution in sight to any of them.





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