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Letters to the Editor for the Week of Jan. 17, 2013

Turmoil in Hamburg does not go back decades

Editor, The Sun

As the former Town of Hamburg Democratic Chairman for over 25 years I would like to comment on a Jan. 12 editorial in another publication regarding the present Town of Hamburg government.

It is true that the turmoil has and continues to cost the taxpayers of the Town of Hamburg in the form of increased taxes. The tax increase for 2013 is one of the highest of all of the larger towns in the County of Erie. The Town of Hamburg had a budget gap of about $ 750,000 in 2011 and was forced to cover the shortfall with fund balance funds.

These are difficult times for Towns to reduce taxes and a nonpartisan approach to this challenge has clearly brought better results in other towns. Hamburg is the only Town to receive millions from the Hamburg Casino Video Lottery funds. Since 2007 the Town of Hamburg has received over $5,000,000 from the Casino and yet our taxes still go up.

In the last three budget years the Democratic Councilmen have proposed spending cuts in the range of $800,000 to $1,100,000 and the Republican board members not only refused to accept one penny of the cuts they instead ridiculed their fellow councilmen.

The recent actions of Elizabeth Reszka are just another effort to divert attention away from the serious financial circumstances the town is facing. The obvious strategy of the Republican board members is to bully anyone who speaks out or asks questions. Residents are intimidated at public meetings and requests by Taxpayer groups for public information are denied.

The effort to eliminate public input is not limited to bully tactics as is evident by the reduction of public meetings. The number of town board meetings has been reduced by over 40.

I do take exception to the comment in the editorial that Hamburg has been troubled for decades. For decades before this board Republican town officials like Jack Quinn, Dan Henry, George Danyluk,and Sally Stephenson worked with Democrats like Pat Hoak, Jim Connolly, Mark Cavacoli, Joan Kesner, Kathy Hochul and Tom Quatroche with an excellent history of good and open government. These officials worked together in a non partisan manner for the good of the town. The town of Hamburg was known as “The Town That Friendship Built.” but the current board’s actions do not support this label.

The need for an outside investigation is a good idea but all past in house investigations have been undertaken by political cronies appointed by the board. I believe an investigation should be conducted by either the Attorney General’s office or the State Comptroller.



Vincent J. Sorrentino

Hamburg

Memories of winters from years gone by

Editor, The Sun

Resilience appears to be one of the common themes that run through the story of one’s life. Back home on the farm, I remember well the blustery, frigid, wind- driven snow storms during the winters of my youth. I did not fully realize then, resilience seemed to be a way of life for my parents, grandparents, and folks of their generation.

For now, we turn back the pages of time to an event I remember as though it were only yesterday. From my upstairs bedroom in the century old farm house, I could hear the frigid, swirling winds roaring from the prevailing southwestern direction. It was a little past mid-night on January 20, 1947. I remember that date well, you see, it was the day after my 17th birthday. The frosty gales gradually picked up speed with increasing fury throughout the night. It was a restless sleep, as the wintry howling blast caused the house rafters to creek and the bedroom window to vibrate with the swirling heavy gusts. Finally, it was a few minutes before 5 a.m., the usual time to rise and help my Dad and brother with the dairy barn chores. To our amazement, the back doorway was completely encased with drifted swirling snow. Over two feet of snow covered the driveway leading to the barn. We were surrounded with zero visibility. Truly, a wintry storm had hit us that night with a vengeance. A blizzard with heavy falling snow continued for the next three days.

Our family farm was located in the Boston Hills on Lower East Hill Road. We were about two miles from the Village of Colden. Many schools were closed that day, and for several days thereafter, including my high school, Springville Griffith Institute. I was in my senior year.

The town maintained most of the rural highways. Keeping the roads cleared of snow was an almost an impossibility. Being located at the highest point in Erie County, meant that the winds had a way of whipping the snow into gigantic drifts. It was not uncommon to find the roads, particularly roads running north and south, completely plugged with snow. This time, the snow drifted up to the level of the two strand telephone wires. Of course, the telephone on our rural party line was knocked out of service.

It was almost impossible for the town single V shaped snow plow to handle that amount of snow. For a period of over two weeks, our country road was completely impassable, blocked by hard packed snow with fifteen to twenty foot drifts. Trudging one’s way to catch the school bus two miles away in blizzard conditions had its challenges. And the only way the farmers could get their milk to the milk plant, was to daily haul the nearly dozen or more ten-gallon cans, each weighing 120 pounds, to the nearest pick-up point in Colden. Daily, the team of horses was hitched to the farm sleigh and the milk was transported through the treacherous hilly terrain. More than once, my dad had to shovel the horses free when stuck in the overpowering snow drifts. Somehow, the farmers accomplished that task against overwhelming wintry odds.

The first week of February arrived, frigid temperatures were still with us, but the sun was shinning brightly on the horizon. The Town Highway Department decided that this was the day to try to open our rural roadway, which was clogged with massive snow banks. With the largest V shaped snow plow I had ever seen attached to the all-powerful Autocar truck, the snow removal process began.

Over a dozen of the neighbors, with snow shovels in hand, did what they could to loosen the hard packed snow banks in the pathway of the plow.

The heavy-duty truck, going back and forth time and time again, fiercely bucked through the gargantuan mounds of snow. After twenty continuous hours, the plow cut through a single swath in the mile-long stretch of roadway. With resolve and resilience, the road was finally openened.

Robert L. Heichberger


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