LEWISTON – After a flurry of fliers and packed board meetings filled with speakers asking the town to pay its share to fund a lawyer who is hired to represent Niagara County and the Town of Lewiston in a legal fight to stop the expansion of the Chemical Waste Management hazardous waste landfill, the Town Board took action at about 9 p.m. Monday, after everyone had left the regular board meeting.
Councilman Ernest C. Palmer said that after the board met in executive session on an unrelated matter, the members returned to address the matter, agreeing to spend $18,000, pending the receipt of an invoice from Niagara County.
Palmer said,”This is the amount that Niagara County owes right now and will set the account to zero.”
He said Niagara County engages the attorney, and Lewiston helps to fund the attorney.
The issue was not on the agenda, and Palmer said the members had not planned to discuss it Monday night but decided after listening to public comments to “take care of it right away.”
“People are making a big deal out of this, but (Niagara County) has never asked us for money,” Palmer said. “We can’t just send out checks without accountability.”
Councilman Alfonso Bax agreed, saying the board supports the fight against CWM’s expansion.
“In the end we are going to find that we are all on the same page, and they are fighting a ghost,” Bax said of protests.
Resident Amy H. Witryol, who spoke against the board’s inaction earlier Monday night said Tuesday that more should be set aside and urged the town to pay $50,000 in advance, in escrow, as has been done historically.
“If you really opposed CWM, wouldn’t you get on the phone and call Niagara County, rather than just sit there for month after month and say, ‘Well we haven’t heard anything,’ ” said Witryrol.
Witryol said it was Lewiston’s turn to spend $50,000 and that when the town didn’t send the money, the county expended an additional $18,000, noting that the town is paying in arrears.
Palmer said: “I know we contributed $50,000 a few years back, and we weren’t supposed to contribute again until that $50,000 was used up. The county kicked in as well, but the money the county kicked in and Lewiston kicked in, plus $18,000 is used up. So we agreed to spend the $18,000 to make the account right.”
He said they have contributed $50,000 to a dedicated Environmental Protection Fund in next year’s budget, which will be earmarked for environmental attorney’s fees.
A number of residents have cautioned that it may be too late if the board waits until January.
“We need to get these people back on the clock now,” Witryol said.