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Niagara County in need of more foster homes, Social Services chief says

LOCKPORT – Niagara County urgently needs more foster homes, Social Services Commissioner Anthony J. Restaino told the County Legislature Tuesday.

The plea came as Restaino announced that the Social Services staff has chosen Daniel and Brenda Wyno of Youngstown as the 2015 foster parents of the year.

During the presentation of that award last year, Restaino said, there were 95 active foster homes serving 120 children. Right now, there are 79 foster homes and a total of 129 children in them. Restaino said, “People kind of aging out is the main reason.”

The county plans a recruiting drive for foster parents. Restaino said anyone interested in becoming a foster parent should call the county’s adoption home-finding unit at 278-8702.

The Wynos have been fostering for nine years. They have been assigned 15 children of various ages, and ended up adopting five of them.

“My mother passed away and it left kind of a void,” Brenda Wyno said. She said her husband, a machine operator at Unifrax in the City of Tonawanda, “was very hesitant” to become a foster father. But he’s changed his tune about foster children.

“They’re like puppies. You get attached to them,” Daniel said. “You hate to see them leave. You get a bond with them.”

Brenda said, “Some that have gone come back and visit us. That’s nice.”

In another matter, the Legislature honored two World War II veterans. Jack McQueen of Gasport, 92, was chosen as the county’s senior citizen of the year. He is the oldest of the volunteers who deliver for the county’s home-delivered meals program, having done so for 30 years, according to Kenneth M. Genewick, director of the county Office for the Aging. He started volunteering 30 years ago, after his retirement from the U.S. Postal Service after 28 years carrying mail.

Also, Roy Phillips of the Town of Lockport received a citation upon his 90th birthday. He volunteers with the Dale Association, Lockport CARES and Lockport Community Television.

On its business agenda, the Legislature scheduled a June 16 public hearing on the proposed $2 million plan to cap the Refuse Disposal District’s construction and demolition landfill, as well as repairing and maintaining the caps on two other Lockport landfills managed by the district. The construction and demolition landfill was closed two years ago, even though it had space left, because the county concluded the cost of operating it outweighed the revenue by more than $500,000 a year, said Legislator Kathryn L. Lance, R-Wheatfield, chairwoman of the district.

District Director Dawn M. Timm said the county placed a foot of soil over the C&D landfill as a temporary measure after it closed. The permanent cap will be two feet thick but will include seven layers. In addition, the $2 million, which will be borrowed on a 20-year bond, would include repairs to Landfill 1, which has no effective cap, no leachate collection system and is leaking, and Landfill 2, where a leak was repaired last year.

Timm said the project estimate is $1.86 million, but she added some contingency room “because we’re installing an electric utility in a rock quarry.” But the district’s tax rate remains lower than it was when the C&D landfill was open, Timm said. Debt service will be $134,000 a year.

Christopher Burns of CHA, the engineering firm that works for the district, said the state Department of Environmental Conservation gave the county variances from regulations on the C&D cap. “It still has the some level of environmental protection, but it’s half as thick, so there’s a cost savings to the county,” Burns said.

Timm said if the plan to control the leaking of Landfill 1 through a new leachate collection system doesn’t work, there might have to be a second phase of work to replace part or all of the cap.

The Legislature also passed a revised version of the sales agreement for 66 acres of county-owned land on Davison Road in Lockport to R.B. Mac Construction Co. of Lockport. The company still will pay $50,700 for the 16 acres closest to the road, including the old county infirmary. If it redevelops the land in a way that suits the county, the company will be allowed to buy 49.4 acres at the rear of the parcel for $50,000. The Legislature formalized a vote it took last year to bar R.B. Mac from installing low-income housing on the site. Also, a 10-foot driveway leading to some baseball diamonds on county land will be kept by the county. Company officials met with the Republican majority caucus behind closed doors to discuss their plans.

Lawmakers also passed a request to the state government to allow the two-year renewal of the 8 percent sales tax in Niagara County, first imposed in 2003.