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Wheatfield planning town drainage study

WHEATFIELD – The Town Board voted Monday to seek proposals from engineering firms for a comprehensive town-wide drainage study.

Problems with standing water and flooded yards have been a constant in low-lying Wheatfield for years. Despite the issues, the town has had a subdivision boom in the past quarter-century, with expensive houses now standing in what were once muddy fields.

“We have this tendency to look at drainage on a project-by-project, flood-by-flood basis,” Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe said. “Is there a faster way to get water out of Wheatfield? If we clean out Sawyer Creek, will it make any difference?”

The town has made efforts to clean out its network of creeks and drainage ditches, but often the mud has prevented the town’s heavy equipment from getting where it needs to go. The network seeks to eventually get the rain and snowmelt to the Niagara River, but it doesn’t always happen effectively.

Councilman Larry L. Helwig said, “This is the first time we ever undertook this kind of study.”

That’s not quite true, Highway Superintendent Paul Siegmann said, saying he stumbled on an old study in a filing cabinet recently. Helwig, a longtime councilman, said that study probably predated the growth in the town’s population to the current level of about 19,000.

Cliffe said the town needs some good answers to the drainage problem before it green-lights any more major subdivisions. He said the town hopes to have some answers by the end of this year.

The vote to conduct the study came after the board delayed action on a five-lot subdivision near the corner of Shawnee and Klemer roads. Owner Michael Eggers wants to build homes on the 13.3-acre parcel.

O’Toole said the Town Board and the Planning Board have not completed the environmental impact form for the project. He said there’s a chance the Town Board may vote on the project at its next meeting Feb. 9.

Also at the meeting:

• As the snow fell outside, the board thought of summer. Young Explosives was awarded a $10,000 contract to present Independence Day fireworks in Oppenheim Park on July 4. Councilman Arthur Gerbec voted no, as he does every year.

The board also heard from Bill Wagner, co-chairman of the air show committee of the Niagara Military Affairs Council, that the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station will host the Thunder Over Niagara air show July 18-19 this year, featuring the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and their F-16 fighter jets. The Army’s Golden Knights Parachute Team also will be part of the show, Wagner said.

• The board approved the hiring of Cooper Sign Co. of the Town of Niagara to place lettering identifying the town’s Community Center and Youth Center on the exterior walls of the buildings for a total of $1,100.

• The board agreed to buy a new Ford pickup truck for the Water and Sewer Department from Van Bortel Ford for $26,205. Water Superintendent Rich Donner said a 2011 pickup with 24,000 miles will be auctioned off on the Auctions International website to offset the cost of the purchase.

• Cliffe reported that the town will switch to Verizon cellphones as of Tuesday, after the company agreed to honor a pledge of free phones and a savings of about $3 a month on each phone’s bill. Verizon had sent the town a bill of $2,000 for the new phones, and at the Jan. 5 meeting the board gave Cliffe authority to cancel the contract unless the free-phone pledge was kept.