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Hearing scheduled on training for members of boards

Cheektowaga Council Member Charlie Markel has grown so concerned that five members of the Planning and Zoning boards have not taken all four required hours of code and rule study that he has called for a public hearing on the matter.

While some say this is all a mix-up, Markel said he felt obliged to take formal action because he did not get satisfying answers to letters sent in July asking board members for records of course work related to planning, zoning, site plans, landscaping, community design and other board-related subjects.

The five people include Planning Board Chairman Anthony Sisti, with two hours on record for 2007, and Zoning Board member James J. Speyer, with three for last year.

The public hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. March 10 in Town Hall.

"I'd just like to hear what the problem was," said Markel. "Then we can decide if there's going to be any punishment . . . . All these jobs need to be taken very seriously."

The Town Board approved the hearing at a meeting Monday. If the reasons people give for falling short are unacceptable, Markel said, Planning or Zoning Board members can be chastised or removed from one of the boards.

Sisti said he took the required hours, learning about new housing and building codes, setbacks and greenspace. However, he did not fill out the form correctly: Before the class he took in Cheektowaga in 2007, he checked the box on the registration form for "planning." He thought that was right because he was on the Planning Board.

He said he now realizes he should have checked "planning and zoning" because the categories were intended to indicate the hours, not board membership. Even though Sisti stayed for the entire class, he said, "I only got credit for the two because that's the only box I checked."

The Cheektowaga requirement for four annual hours of class is now two years old, a relatively new provision, said Sisti, who has been on the board for 10 years. At first, he said, the class-hour registering process confused him.

"It was so mixed up, nobody really understood it," said Sisti. "It's much clearer now."

Planning Board member Sigmund Kucewicz, with only three official hours for 2007, said he took an additional three hours not on the record. He submitted his proof of a completed computer exam to the town office, but somehow it didn't register.

"It's just a great big mix-up, " said Kucewicz, a retired owner of a landscape and garden supply company. "We've got to get it straightened out."

Sisti thinks board members, who are paid between $3,600 and $5,000 a year, should stay up to date with rules by taking classes each year.

"Things keep changing . . .," Sisti said. "Zoning laws keep changing. . . . It's really an excellent idea. This shall not happen again. We will make sure everybody attends four hours a year."

e-mail: mkearns@buffnews.com

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