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Wheatfield mulls new sign law

WHEATFIELD – The Town Board is considering a revised electronic sign law that might require signs to flash less often.

The board on Monday voted to schedule a June 8 public hearing on a revision that would increase the minimum time for each image to be shown from six seconds to a minute.

Town Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe asked for the hearing, which was to have been held May 18, to be put off, so the Planning Board will have a chance to comment on the new rule.

The law also would require electronic message boards to be dimmed at night, but it would allow their use by churches, schools and emergency responders regardless of the zoning of their site.

The duration allowed for an electronic signboard has been a subject of controversy in the Town of Lockport, which bars such signs unless their images remain unchanged for 10 minutes at a time. Wheatfield’s attorney, Robert J. O’Toole, said, “I don’t think 10 minutes is reasonable.”

But he acknowledged that there have been complaints about the brightness of some signs and the rapid changes of others that might distract drivers. At present, electronic signs are allowed only in commercial zones, which hasn’t prevented some from being installed elsewhere.

On another topic, the board hired Rich Siegmann Jr., brother of Highway Superintendent Paul Siegmann, to fill a vacant water and sewer maintenance job. The 40-hour-a-week position has a starting salary of $18.11 per hour. Cliffe said Siegmann had a strong resume of construction and excavation work.

In another matter, the board amended the town personnel policy to incorporate the new policy of paying employees for unused compensatory time, which was included in the new Teamsters Union contract that took effect Jan. 1. The contract covers about 18 workers in the highway, water and sewer and recreation departments.

Before the new contract, O’Toole said, workers were allowed to carry unused comp time over from year to year. Councilman Larry L. Helwig said some employees carried over as much as 100 hours into the new year, but that practice is no longer allowed.

Paul Siegmann said paying off unused comp time is cheaper than paying overtime, especially in his department with the demands snow plowing placed on his budget this winter.

“I think you’ll see them using their days. They had a tough winter. They want some time off now,” he said.

The board also altered the union contract to provide health insurance for new hires on the first day of the month after their 60th day of work, even though there’s a six-month waiting period to join the Teamsters. O’Toole said that complies with Obamacare rules that require employers to provide workers health insurance by their 90th day on the payroll.

Also Monday, Cliffe reported that the Department of Environmental Conservation told him that work on the cleanup of the town-owned Niagara Sanitation landfill will be done by July. The actual removal of Love Canal waste buried there after the construction of the LaSalle Expressway should be complete within two weeks. After that, the DEC must fill in the hole, remove the temporary road it built to reach the site, and “take it back to nature,” Cliffe said. The state Department of Transportation moved about 1,600 cubic yards of Love Canal waste to the Wheatfield site in 1968 after unearthing it during the highway project.

The state Superfund project “is getting rid of materials that never should have been dumped there in the first place,” Cliffe said. The material is being taken to Nebraska for incineration. Glenn Springs Holdings, a subsidiary of Occidental Chemical Corp., is the cleanup company.

The board also gave the go-ahead to GT Custom Homes to begin installing roads and water and sewer lines, to be connected to 16 home lots in Phase 4 of the Timber Lakes subdivision, off Shawnee Road a mile north of Niagara Falls Boulevard.

Once they are deemed completed by CRA, the engineering firm that supervises such “public improvements” in the town, the board can vote to accept them and allow GT to start selling houses.