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Hot-button issues face board tonight

The Village Hall meeting room is expected to be packed when the Wilson Village Board meets at 7 p.m. today, with hot-button issues ranging from sewer rates to building inspections.

Mayor Patrick D. Kelahan said he welcomes the public scrutiny.

"This is about people getting involved and seeing how government works," he said.

Kelahan said he will explain why the village raised sewer rates 30 percent a year ago after holding an advertised public hearing on the village budget but not a separate hearing on the sewer rate changes, which were part of the budget.

"We now know there is a very specific part of municipal law that requires a separate hearing," Kelahan said. "I am very sheepish that I didn't know that. I like to follow things right to the letter. This is all on the mayor.

"But this is not about accounting or about the sewer rates -- no matter what, we need those funds to function," he said. "We absolutely did this with transparency and in good faith."

The board approved a nearly $1.2 million spending plan April 15 that included a tax rate decrease of 89 cents, to $7.57 per $1,000 of assessed valuation; a $2.40 increase in the sewer rate, to $8 per 1,000 gallons; and a steady water rate of $3.15 per 1,000 gallons.

Kelahan blamed the hike in sewer rates on the loss of the Pfeiffer Foods plant, which closed in November 2009. He said the plant accounted for 25 percent of the water use and 25 percent of the sewer use billed in the village, increasing the tax burden of village taxpayers.

The Village Board is currently working on its 2011-12 budget, which must be adopted by May 1. Kelahan said he does not anticipate any changes at this time in the water or sewer taxes. A public hearing date has not yet been set for the village budget.

Additionally, the board is under fire for the release earlier this year of Charles S. Milne II as building inspector due to "multiple personnel issues," Kelahan said. Department of Public Works employees and the mayor have been fulfilling the duties of building inspector until a new one is appointed, possibly next month, Kelahan said.

e-mail: niagaranews@buffnews.com

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