STATE OF THE TOWN — Hamburg Town Supervisor Steven Walters is pictured during the 13th annual Hamburg Chamber of Commerce State of the Town address on Jan. 31 at Ilio DiPaolo’s in Blasdell. Photo by Alicia Greco.
HAMBURG — Hamburg Town Supervisor Steven Walters was initially elected into his position in 2005, with re-elections in 2009 and 2013. He gave the annual Hamburg Chamber of Commerce State of the Town address at Ilio DiPaolo’s Restaurant in Blasdell in Jan. 31.
Walters reported that the town continued its positive progress, last year, “whether it be new programs, new projects or more reforms,” he said. “It was certainly an accomplished year in the town, and what the town government did and, as a result, I’m pleased to announce that the state of the town is good.”
The supervisor described 2013 as a year of preparation. In working with the Hamburg Library Board and Director Jack Edson on the Hamburg Library expansion project, Walters said that the efforts will produce “a state-of-the-art library that will bring our community into the 21st century of libraries.” Offering more technology, space and amenities, the library will be housed in an architectural design that “blends nicely into the revitalized central business district of the village of Hamburg, but also brings a level of uniqueness that people are going to point to and know what that building is, and the importance of that building.”
Contracts have been awarded, and Walters added that construction should start soon.
After its acquisition of the Frontier Learning Center, the town of Hamburg reconstructed that establishment into the Hamburg Senior Center. Walters said that this location will provide triple the previous amount of space, to accommodate for the growing population of the two current establishments on Pleasant Avenue and Sowles Road.
“Like the library, this has been a long process,” he said. “We initially started with a small building committee that ... went on and presented the plans to our seniors,” Walters said. “We got tremendous input from our senior population and came up with what I believe is going to make us have the top-notch senior center in all of Erie County. Yes, it took us a while, but it was because we wanted it done right.” He said that the contracts should be approved and finalized at the next town board meeting. The current senior facilities will remain open and functional until the project is completed.
An update about the railroad quiet zones was also provided, during the address. “This, I guess, is an example of what happens when you have to work with the federal government, the state government, the county government and ... the two largest railroads in the country,” Walters said, adding that all of the approvals and permits have been cleared and issued. He reported that work should commence on Rogers Road and Clover Bank, this spring.
The consolidated Hamburg Youth Recreation and Senior Services Department “continues to show that we made the right decision bringing these three departments together,” according to the Hamburg town supervisor. He said that the dormant youth award banquet was revived and that the YES program had nearly 200 individuals contribute more than 3,000 hours of service for the town. During the holiday season, that department participated in the Western New York Holiday Partnership, a local toy distribution program.
Walter announced that the Hamburg Recreation Department received an award from the National Alliance for Youth Sports for “commitment to providing safe, positive and high-quality sports experience to the youth that we served.” He congratulated Director of Recreation Martin Denecke for his efforts.
An update for the park and recreation department’s master plan was announced; this included a road map of future enhancements and developments, which was initiated in July and should be completed by spring.
The Hamburg Town of Recreation Foundation was acknowledged for the fundraising of projects within the master plan, including the revitalization of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail Visitor Center, a flood mitigation project at the 18 Mile Creek Golf Course, Danielle Pietrocarlo’s outdoor fitness park contribution and the Hamburg Rotary Club’s baseball diamond, which can both be found at the former Nike Base in Hamburg.
Walters reported that the recreation department received $50,000 in grants, scholarships and donations; he noted a $25,000 grant from the Buffalo Bills Youth
Foundation. The Hamburg Historical Society completed its new museum, which is now open for business. “I encourage everyone to visit and see what our past has, while we celebrate our future,” Walters said.
He congratulated Erie County Fair CEO Dennis Lang. “I can say with confidence that this is going to be a fair to remember,” Walters said, about the fair’s upcoming 175th anniversary.
Woodlawn Beach was also given recognition, during his speech. Walters said that attendance records were broken this year and that “there were more people that came to Woodlawn than all other public beaches in Erie County combined. The secret is out; this is a great facility.”
It was announced that 43 acres of the Bay View Road Lake Erie Commerce Center was sold to a business “focusing on international trade and logistics, that will bring over 200 paid jobs to this region.”
To touch on the darker side of the year in the town of Hamburg, Walters noted the murder of Toys R Us Assistant Manager Laurence Wells; this is the first murder Hamburg has seen in more than a decade, according to Walters. A round of applause was had for Chief Michael Williams and the Hamburg Police Department for their effort with the case, and presence within the town.
Belmont Housing and Housing Opportunities Made Equal were recognized for services contributed to Hamburg.
Walters called the tax rate reduction, which was the fifth in the past seven years, “the biggest accomplishment this past year.” Less money is being spent today than in 2007, despite pension rate increases and cost effect of inflation, he added.
“Just taking inflation into account, we should be spending 13 percent more than we were in 2007. We are actually spending less,” Walters said. “This is a remarkable feat, and a feat that could not have happened without the tremendous amount of hard work and dedication with a lot of people in the town government.” He said he will continue to reject the policy of relying on borrowing or reserves to keep a balanced budget.
For Walters’ final statement for the State of the Town address, he said, “Our fiscal conservative policies have truly righted the ship. Our record proves that we have sought out solutions to our problems, and we have fixed those problems. With our continued action, we will keep Hamburg the wonderful place it is. We will continue to move Hamburg in a positive direction, and continue to ensure that we leave a better community for our children and our grandchildren.”