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Lewiston board rejects naming of both Townsend and Zahno as Water Dept. foremen

LEWISTON – The Lewiston Town Board on Tuesday night rejected a plan to make two men foremen of the Water Department in an effort to defuse a Teamsters union grievance.

Both Mike Townsend and Daniel Zahno were considered for the job as equally qualified. The post was vacant with the retirement of Robert Nablo. However Zahno objected to the board’s recommendation to hire Townsend and filed a grievance.

Assistant Town Attorney Brian Seaman noted that, following a lengthy meeting that included Supervisor Dennis J. Brochey and Councilman William Conrad, they agreed both candidates could do the job by creating a second position that would continue only until one retires – with Townsend expected to retire in about three years. The annual cost would have been an extra $10,000.

Brochey, however, told the board that after further consideration, he changed his mind about the agreement.

“I’ll admit that initially I was on board with it, but after three or four days … I had to change my mind,” said Brochey, who objected to the extra cost.

The board agreed with Brochey, with the exception of Conrad, who said, “I’m a man of my word. When I made the agreement we shook hands on it, to approve this idea. I gave my word to these gentlemen.”

Though Councilman Ronald Winkley voted against hiring both candidates, he conceded there likely will be legal fees in the fight with the union.“Either way it’s going to cost us,” he added.

In another matter, the board debated how to distribute new Power Authority money that previously had been funneled to water-rate payers in the form of a discount of about $100 per year.

The town receives 6.5 megawatts of power as part of the relicensing agreement. A portion of that share – 3 megawatts – was being sold back and distributed as a discount to town residents.

Last year, the New York Power Authority questioned the practice of discounting water bills. Brochey noted that ratepayers are owed $60 from last year and $50 from this year.

Winkley said officials tried to work with National Grid to discount electric bills, but some residents with Youngstown and Ransomville addresses were excluded.

Also, the board agreed to give an excavation permit to Tug Hill Environmental, which has been mining clay at a site off Ridge Road for several months. A memorandum of understanding had been issued by the board, and Building Inspector Tim Masters said the operator paid town fees.

The Mawhiney clay mine, a 52-acre site that has operated on Ridge Road for several years, had not been issued a permit because of questions about paperwork and failure to pay the $15,200 permit fee.

Town Attorney Mark Davis said, “There’s a court order recommending the permit. My recommendation is to issue the permit based on the court order.”

Davis noted that Mawhiney tried to pay the permit fee several times, but the checks were rejected by the town.

The board also accepted the retirement of Lewiston Police Chief Christopher Salada, who is leaving after 25 years with the Police Department.