TOWN OF NIAGARA – Veterans Memorial Park dominated the Town Board work session Thursday night.
The councilmen debated instituting video surveillance at the park; dugouts for the baseball diamonds; and, perhaps most significantly, the name of the park.
For months, Supervisor Lee Wallace has been urging the other board members to decide on a name for the park. Although commonly referred to as Veterans Memorial Park, the town’s largest park never has been officially named, according to Wallace and longtime Councilmen Marc Carpenter and Danny Sklarski.
The name was a topic of debate at a recent forum of candidates for the board.
Wallace wants the board to move on the issue because a permanent lighted sign, for which money has been appropriated, is ready to be installed at the entrance at 7000 Lockport Road. Workers will put in the foundation soon, he said.
However, the councilmen have been moving cautiously, as they do not want to offend any group, particularly veterans, if the name is changed.
“If you strongly oppose (keeping the name), you need to stand up and be heard,” he said. “The perception in the community is that this is the name.”
Wallace, who along with Sklarski, supports the current name, said if the board attempted to switch it to something else, “it looks like we’re pulling the rug out from under the veterans.”
“There are battles to fight and battles not to fight,” the supervisor explained. “This is one we should not fight.”
Wallace predicted that a board vote, if member Rob Clark is absent, would end up in a 2-2 tie.
“You’re assuming I would vote no,” Carpenter objected.
He said the board needed to come to a consensus on any decision.
“Nobody’s against it, but we want to make sure we represent the best interests and opinions of the community,” Carpenter stressed.
Councilman Charles Teixeira has been pushing the board to survey town residents for recommendations.
“We should hear from the community,” Teixeira explained. “I don’t think we’re disrespectful to veterans if that’s what the community wants.”
Carpenter, who apparently did not favor a survey, said the councilmen were “elected to lead,” and if polls had to be taken on all board decisions, no progress would ever be made.
Sklarski suggested the community be surveyed to come up with names for some of the “pocket” parks located in various neighborhoods throughout the town. There are two parks without names, it was noted.
The topic is expected to be revisited at the next session, on Sept. 9.
Wallace said he would leave the topic on the agenda and “maybe God will intervene.”
The cost of dugouts for three of the park’s baseball diamonds also was in contention, as Teixeira said he did not want to spend more money at the location while the other smaller, neighborhood parks need vast improvement.
“It’s shameful to spend $36,000 (per field) on eight weeks of baseball before spending anything on the other parks,” he said.
Although Wallace said money is earmarked for the other parks, Teixeira said he wanted to see physical improvements at the smaller parks before approving the dugouts, which he said could wait.
The majority of the expense is because of labor costs, according to Wallace. He said he would have the contractor come in to show the board the designs.
Wallace has been trying to get the town to put in protective dugouts and fencing at the park since he was recreation director two years ago. Right now there is no way to keep parents and spectators away from the fields, and it has become a safety issue.
Sklarski said the cost is “a small price to pay” in protecting residents as well as the town, in terms of insurance liability. “We’re dodging the bullet.” The original cost determined by engineers was more than $250,000 a few years ago.
The board also seemed to favor a proposal to pay Villani’s Lawn and Landscaping $19,525 for landscaping work and installation of trees at Veterans Memorial Park. The company, which was the low bidder, will plant 7-foot trees around the pond and building as well as the entrance to the park.
Wallace also will obtain a price from state contracts for the installation of lighted emergency call buttons along the paths in the park and for video surveillance at the building and the entrance.