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Cheektowaga assessor on leave

Cheektowaga Town Assessor Brian Hess has been on leave with pay for the past week, according to Town Board members, who declined to elaborate, citing the confidentiality of personnel matters.

"We, at this moment, don't have an active assessor," Town Supervisor Mary Holtz said Friday. "I'm not going to discuss this . . . I have to discuss this with the attorneys."

At its meeting Monday, the board made a routine Assessment Department appointment.

Timothy Schlegel, who had a provisional position, earned recent civil service exam scores that were high enough to allow the board to give him a permanent post as a field investigator for assessing home and business values.

The board also held a public hearing, but received no public comment, for its upcoming Oct. 5 vote on a proposed anti-texting law.

"It's going to be one of the toughest of any municipality of New York State," Council Member James Rogowski said last week before the meeting. "I wish the whole state would pass this law."

The proposal would prohibit the use of "portable electronic devices" while driving. If approved, it would allow Cheektowaga police to pull over texting drivers, unlike a state law set to take effect in November that allows police to stop texting drivers only when they observe another infraction. Cheektowaga fines for violating the town law would be $200, while the state fine is $150.

Other local governments have made similar efforts to adopt stricter versions of the state law by making texting a primary violation that warrants a police stop. In August, Amherst became the first municipality in Erie County to ban texting. In June, Cattaraugus County passed a similar ban. This month, Niagara County followed suit.

Cheektowaga Council Member Jeff Swiatek said he expects the measure to pass.

"We're at the geographical center of Erie County. . . . We have a lot of traffic in our town," he said, citing Union and Transit roads and Walden Avenue. "The more congestion you have, the more opportunity you have for collision."

The board also voted to hold a public hearing on a zoning change that would allow developer George Peppes to build 21 patio homes on Losson Road, near the entrance to Stiglmeier Park.

e-mail: mkearns@buffnews.com

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