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Wheatfield schedules hearing on budget with slight tax decrease

WHEATFIELD – The Wheatfield Town Board has scheduled a public hearing on the 2016 town budget for 7:15 p.m. Nov. 2, after making several revisions in the spending plan Monday.

Supervisor Robert B. Cliffe and Budget Director Edward Mongold said none of the amendments will alter the bottom line for taxpayers, which is a minute tax reduction. The owner of a home assessed at $125,000 would see a tax bill of $487.47, which would be 55 cents lower than this year’s.

The main event on the list of amendments was the decision to add $60,000 in Seneca Niagara casino revenue from Niagara County. The town received about $77,000 this year under what was announced as a one-year plan for the county to share some of its casino cash with cities, towns and villages, except for Niagara Falls, which has its own share of casino money.

“If it doesn’t happen then we have to use more fund balance or spend less elsewhere,” Cliffe said. But he said the town has been told by a county legislator that the revenue sharing plan is likely to be renewed.

Spending in the 2016 budget totals $12.8 million, an increase of $100,000 from this year, with a tax levy of $3.5 million, an increase of $25,258, or 0.72 percent.

Cliffe said there may be a vote on the budget Nov. 2 if the hearing is uneventful. Otherwise, the board would vote Nov. 16.

Also Monday, Highway Superintendent Paul A. Siegmann said the installation of a culvert pipe in what is now a drainage ditch on Krueger Road may occur soon.

Siegmann said he has the culvert pipe, but the town has just received the county’s paving machine for a few days and he intends to repair some roads. “As soon as that’s done, I hope to get over there (to Krueger Road) and start installing pipe,” he said.

Covering over the drainage ditch would give pedestrians an escape route on the virtually shoulder-less road, where a teenager was killed while walking last November.

Also Monday, resident Sharon A. Downie urged the board to join Pendleton in its effort to defeat National Fuel’s plan for a compressor station as part of its plan to enlarge its existing pipeline to export fracked Pennsylvania gas to Canada.

Pendleton officials have opined that the compressors ought to be moved to an industrial park or similar location, such as the Wheatfield site on Liberty Drive where National Fuel plans a gas dehydration station. For the compressors, the company currently is targeting a site on Killian Road in Pendleton, owned by the Tonawanda Sportsmen’s Club. The site is a half-mile from Wheatfield’s eastern border.

Cliffe said he’d be willing to work with Pendleton’s board “anytime they want.” But he said Wheatfield residents haven’t shown much interest in the compressor issue.

“They moved it from Aiken Road to Killian Road,” Councilman Larry L. Helwig noted. “We need to put our residents on notice.”

The company’s plans would have to be approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Cliffe said, “They put into FERC an option on Liberty Drive.” But when asked by Downie if there was a plan to move the compressors into Wheatfield, Cliffe said, “I know of nothing in any discussion I’ve been involved in.”

National Fuel spokeswoman Karen L. Merkel confirmed that Cliffe was told in March that Liberty Drive is the company’s preferred location for the dehydration station. She said the company has a purchase option on the land there. The FERC filings for the project, which the company calls Northern Access 2016, will be updated before the end of this month to show Killian Road as the preferred site for the compressors, Merkel said.