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Brownfield redevelopment discussed in Gowanda

The Village of Gowanda will soon begin identifying properties that qualify for the Brownfield Areas Opportunity (BOA) Program through the New York State Department of State (DOS), Mayor Heather McKeever said at the Nov. 12 village board meeting. The $79,000 New York State grant is the first step in a process to encourage redevelopment of properties formerly used for industrial purposes, or that otherwise have sustained some degree of environmental damage.

The BOA Program is designed to take dormant properties that either are contaminated, or are suspected of being contaminated by previous activities, and transform them into community assets that generate businesses, jobs and revenues for local economies. The program provides guidance, technical support and financial assistance up to 90 percent of eligible costs. The stated goal is to partner with local municipalities and organizations “to develop and realize a community vision for redevelopment and revitalization,” according to the DOS website.

Mayor McKeever and Trustee Paul Zimmermann met with DOS representatives and received a Work Plan Overview. Village Attorney Deborah Chadsey said this is an opportunity to inventory all the parcels in the village and come up with a designated list of Brownfield properties that could be targeted for redevelopment through the BOA Program. “The first step is to conduct some kind of audit or survey in the village, and that’s what the grant was to do,” said Chadsey.

“It seems like there are some incentives for a business to want to come in and take advantage of those opportunities,” Zimmermann said. Chadsey added, “Unquestionably, there’s an entire state program of tax credits for doing Brownfield redevelopment. You would have this assessment done; they could look at what was available on the BOA list, and encourage them to choose one of those properties to consider redeveloping.”

Mayor McKeever said the next step is to get a consultant on board to help in the property inventory. “There are some specific sites we want to focus on,” she said. The $79,000 grant has a 10 percent local share, part of which will be offset by in-kind services provided by the village.

Historian Phil Palen said the Gowanda Area Historical Society has copies of Sanborn Insurance Maps of the village that show changes in land use and development at various intervals between 1885 and 1949. Attorney Chadsey said they can be valuable tools in determining past use of properties in the village.

Treasurer Cindy Schilling read the October police report. There were 232 reportable calls, eight arrests, 11 tickets issued, two violent domestic calls, one motor vehicle accident, and eight assist other agency calls. Winter parking rules are now in effect through April 1. No on-street parking is allowed from midnight to 7 a.m. in residential areas, and from 4-7 a.m. in the business district.

Trustee Carol Sheibley met with the village’s insurance agent on the risk management guideline policies. She cited several points, including mandatory driver’s license checks and criminal background checks for new hires. “There is nothing controversial in this. These are good policies to be adopted to reduce your liability exposure,” Attorney Chadsey said. The board passed a resolution to submit the guidelines to Travelers Insurance, the village’s carrier.

During public participation, resident Ronald G. Clabeaux Sr. questioned the village’s role in redeveloping the former glue factory property on Palmer Street into Gateway Park. “You’re not looking out for the taxpayers of the village, are you?” Clabeaux asked. To which Mayor McKeever replied, “I’m looking out for the fact that 10 to 15 years from now, this is going to be a great place for people to live.” Clabeaux responded, “I hope your kids get stuck with all these taxes.”

The mayor responded, “The living standard which we have is maintained in ways where we’ve received grants and we’ve been very efficient with the money and I think we will continue to be.” Clabeaux then took issue with what he called, “Mikey’s park,” citing the fact that Michael Hutchinson, project manager for Gateway Park, lives outside the village.

Attorney Chadsey answered Clabeaux’s criticism. “I don’t live in the village, sir, but I’ve been an environmental lawyer for a quarter of a century and if that park had not been developed, you would have had a hazardous waste site with a cap and a fence,” Chadsey said. “When that park gets developed it will generate revenue. People will come to the park. They will stop at the restaurants, and buy some groceries and shop in the stores on your main streets. You’ve got to consider that, too.”

In other business, the board:

• Observed a moment of silence in memory of John Regan, former member of the Gowanda Ambulance Board.

• Announced the resignation of Fire Chief Mike Birtchnall, effective Nov. 1. Mark Hebner will serve as interim chief until the end of the year.

• Accepted the resignation of Louise Hubbard from the village clerk’s staff, effective the end of November.

• Passed a resolution to turn over unpaid tax bills totaling $23,083.50 to Erie County for collection, and $62,302.17 to Cattaraugus County.

• Announced a Christmas toy drive to be run by the village police department.

• Authorized purchase of a diagnostic scanning tool for the village’s vehicle fleet at a cost of $2,550.

• Accepted a bid of $17,720 from Boyle’s Motor Service for repairs to “Big Blue,” the village’s heavy dump truck, and authorized Highway Superintendent Gary Denea to explore the possibility of leasing another truck.

• Thanked Boy Scout Troop 276 for painting most of the hydrants in the village. The remainder will be painted next spring.

• Was informed that tree committee volunteers and public works personnel planted 16 shade trees on Nov. 8.

The next scheduled village board meeting is Tuesday, Nov. 26 at 7 p.m. in the village board room, 27 East Main Street.

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