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Political heat is evident in give-and-take

It's eight weeks before Election Day, and sparring at the Hamburg Town Board meetings is getting so intense that it might have to hire a referee for the next one.

"I have asked the Town Board if they will be able to hold the line on taxes," Steven J. Walters, Republican candidate for town supervisor, said during the public portion of the meeting, noting that most town fire districts have not asked for an increase in their budgets.

"Oh, have you asked us?" Supervisor Patrick H. Hoak said, asking his fellow board members, all Democrats, whether they had heard from Walters. They said no.

"I've asked publicly. I have not asked privately," Walters said.

Walters said the Town Board should be able to hold the line on taxes this year, and board members told him that the budget is still being developed.

As voices and tempers rose, Hoak asked Police Chief Joseph Coggins to throw Republican Town Chairman Mark V. Cuda out of the meeting. Cuda had yelled out for the supervisor not to imply that Walters said something he did not. The chief spoke to him, and Cuda did not leave.

Hoak, who is running for re-election, said that during his tenure as supervisor, the town has spent millions of dollars to expand the golf course to 18 holes, add 10 soccer fields and improve the ice arena.

"It's more important for an ice arena than to hire more cops on the street?" Walters shot back. "I think the police should be a higher priority than the golf course."

Hoak asked the chief whether the department was understaffed, and Coggins said that it wasn't.

Walters repeated his allegation that police officers have come to him privately with complaints about the way the department is run and how they have been treated. "These things never happened," Coggins said, adding that Walters had never talked to him. "If he can bring these people forward to enlighten me . . . ?"

e-mail: bobrien@buffnews.com

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