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Boston public silent on tentative budget

BOSTON — Despite the opportunity to voice their opinions about the town of Boston’s tentative budget for 2014, attendees held their peace, during a public hearing opened by the town board, during its meeting on Oct. 15. The proposal was highlighted by no increase in town taxes, after three years of decreases.

“You’d think the public hearing on the budget would be something that the folks would want to have some input on,” Councilman Jay Boardway said, later adding, “I was ... shocked that nobody had any comments regarding our budget in the public hearing. You’d think people that are interested in town government would have at least a question or a concern.”

The absence of public opinion did not keep the board members from expressing their own feelings about the proposal. Boardway pointed out some of the cost-cutting measures, utilized during the past few years, which have resulted in lower tax rates and improvements to the town. He pointed out the fire contract with the town of Hamburg as one such example of saved costs.

“The administration that was here prior to us ... had entered into kind of an endless contract with the town of Hamburg, for discharge services,” Boardway said. “That contract just sort of had magical, built-in increases, every single year. It just kept going up and up and up and up, and an interesting thing happened: I asked them to lower the cost of the contract and they said yes. It was magical. Nobody had ever asked; nobody had ever bothered.”

The contract included the following costs: $51,252 in 2009, $52,692 in 2010, $52,949 in 2011 and $54,366 in 2012.

This year, during Boston’s first year with the town of Hamburg, “we paid $30,000 to them, for dispatching our volunteers,” Boardway said. “This is a four-year agreement, right now. This saves essentially the built-in raises that the old contract has, $100,000, just in the fire dispatch and the EMS dispatch in this town.”

He added, “What comes of this extra money are all these improvements back here,” which include the town park, veterans’ park, renovated sports fields and working bathrooms.

Board Member Jeff Genzel, who also serves as the town’s engineering liaison, laid out the engineering costs before and after his taking office in 2010.

“The engineering costs are very important to me here in town,” he said. “When I became a councilman, I established an engineering liaison position, because of the out-of-control spending that happened, during the previous administration.”

He reported that, in 2008, Boston spent $377,210 on engineering. “They had two engineers on board,” he said. “This was the same year that the firemen’s pension tanked; lost 30 percent. Maybe if the people in charge were watching the store at that time, that wouldn’t have happened.”

In 2009, Boston spent $171,280 on engineering costs. “We still can’t figure out what they bought,” Genzel said.

“In 2010, Marty, Jay and [my] first year in office [with] new Town Engineer Jim Hannon: $31,000, folks, for the whole year,” he said.

Skipping ahead to 2012, $49,635 was spent, including “all the projects we did, all the planning board requests, the [zoning board of appeals] requests – all the engineering costs rolled up into one number.”

This year, to date, the department has spent $24,679. “As you can see from these numbers ... in the last three years, we have saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in engineering costs and we actually have something to show for it,” Genzel said.

“It’s a joint effort to keep your taxes low,” Supervisor Martin Ballowe said. “Every department head works really hard to stay within their budget or drop it.

“It’s really worked, as you can see in the last four years,” he added. “Where other towns raise their taxes, the town of Boston has dropped three years; fourth year, kept it the same as the previous year. That is a great thing to stand up and be proud of; of all the things we accomplish in this town, beside all the improvements, which are very nice, and I know people appreciate it but for me, that’s No. 1.”

In other board matters:
– Genzel addressed the Shero Road waterline extension, reporting that the cost estimates had been finished and were forwarded to Grant Writer Connie Minor. Pending approval from a federal agency, an income survey will go out to that area next. Once the survey is approved, a meeting will be held to explain to residents how to fill out the survey. “If we send it out now, no one will understand it and disregard it and waste time and postage for everybody,” Genzel explained.

– The board member also addressed comments from an unnamed resident who thought the project was at a standstill. “I had a chance to talk to a bunch of the residents up in that area who would be benefiting from this public water, and they were so happy to hear from me, to hear this project has been moving forward for a few months now,” Genzel said. “Unfortunately, they had heard from a woman who lives up there that this project isn’t moving forward at all and that we’re just pulling the wool over people’s eyes. This project is moving forward. There’s no possible way this project cannot be moving forward.”

– The board passed Resolution 2013 – 15, “Erie County Community Development Block Grant Requests.” The board authorized Ballowe to “sign, submit and execute a contract with [ECCDBG] Program for the cited projects, upon approval of the ECCDBG.”

In addition, it was resolved that the board “provides a 50 percent ($111,475) match for the Boston Cross Road Storm Drain Extension Project Phase II, which has a total estimated cost of $222,950.” The motion passed by unanimous vote.

– The board placed its unpaid water bills on the 2014 tax roll, for a total bill of $1,203.

– Ballowe reported a need for Meals on Wheels members. “We really need volunteers for that, to deliver this food,” he said. “Everybody in this town hall steps in, when people don’t make it. They go out and they deliver food to the elderly who rely on that.” He said that mileage is paid for volunteers. “It’s a nice thing to do. If you know anyone who wants to volunteer, ask them to come down to the town hall.”

The next Boston Town Board meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 6 at the Boston Town Hall, located at 8500 Boston State Road.

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