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The pantry is full, but where to locate it remains a question

NORTH COLLINS — The North Collins Town Board held a public hearing on proposals to apply for Community Block Grant funding on Sept. 11.

On the list is obtaining money to help the Eden North Collins Food Pantry establish its own structure. Neither the pantry nor the town had any concrete plans that could be used for an application.

The pantry group approached the town two years ago and was granted permission to erect a structure on town land next to the senior building. Consent was given, with plans for the pantry to secure funding, erect the building, give the facade to the town and lease it back.

A later proposal saw the town grant the group permission to erect a combined pantry and emergency squad hall on town land south of the Fricano Park entrance. That plan was abandoned and the original site was again designated.

In August, the pantry requested that the town take the lead in funding and erecting the structure, saying that, as the building would be town-owned, it must be the entity to apply for funds.

The town agreed to pursue the block grant funds for $100,000 toward the project and the pantry announced that it had raised another $60,000 to add.

According to Town Clerk Margaret Orrange, the proposed building would cost approximately $250,000. While Orrange has been working with the group to prepare a grant proposal, she asked where the pantry staff expected to find the additional $90,000.

It was said that the town could secure a loan for the specified amount and that the pantry could make payments on it. Supervisor Rose Seege said that she was concerned. “You don’t have plans or cost estimates,” she said. “The proposal will never fly with community development and, if the application is rejected, it will cost the town points against future applications.”

The discussion turned to the possibility of taking over an existing building and several, currently vacant sites were mentioned. Seege said she would prefer that an existing building be reused, if possible. The town has until Oct. 28 to submit a grant application and will expect more details from the pantry, at its next meeting.

Councilman George LoBianco said that he would rather see funding applied to fix the floor at the senior building and perhaps build permanent bathrooms in the park.

In other board news:

– Erie County Legislator John Mills spoke about his support for town highway superintendents, as they sought a new agreement to plow county roads.

While the superintendents had sought a 5 percent increase, a contract drawn up on Sept. 18 gave the municipalities an annual increase of 3 percent for the next three years. Mills said, “You can’t expect North Collins or any other town to lose money plowing county roads.”

– Sam Berg of Sam Haskell Tree Service presented options the town could pursue toward addressing the emerald ash borer issue. Berg said that a survey of town lands and their ash populations could be accomplished for an estimated $800 – $1,200. Additional work, such as locating and entering GPS information about the trees, could also be performed.

The town could harvest some of its ash trees prior to infestation, or it could choose to save at least some with injection remedies that have proved successful in other states, according to Berg, who added that treatments are currently needed every three years, but the price has dropped more than a third from last year. Berg said that there will be no escape from the threat anywhere in the state. “There’s no smoke or mirrors here,” he said. “You are either going to treat the tree or remove it.” Berg offered to prepare a cost proposal about options for the board.

– In response to rumors in the community that recreation department employees were being highly paid, Seege read the list of employees and their hourly wages, followed by a list from two years ago. None of the current hires reached the highest total found on the old list.

– The board approved Highway Superintendent David Winter’s request to purchase a brush hog from Eden Tractor for $3,800 and a new salt spreader box for $20,000. Winter will utilize remaining garden funds to install water lines at Danker Park in New Oregon. He said that he anticipates drilling a well at the site, in the future.

– Planning Board Chair John Tobia received permission to circulate a community survey, as his committee begins developing a new comprehensive master plan for the town.

The board will next meet at the town hall at 7 p.m. on Oct. 9.

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