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A board divided: Apprenticeship training approved after debate

HAMBURG — The Hamburg Town Board’s most recent meeting started out quietly, but a few issues raised the concerns of board members and townspeople alike.

On Feb. 24, no topic on the agenda consumed more time and attention than the resolution to institute an apprenticeship training program into the town – a matter that failed to gain unanimous consent from the board. However, despite Supervisor Steven Walters’ disapproval, the motion passed 2 – 1 on the strength of votes from Councilmen Mike Quinn and Cheryl Potter-Juda.

According to the resolution, “the promotion of apprenticeship training programs will expand the pool of skilled workers in the town of Hamburg by providing many residents the means to earn a decent living, thereby fostering the local and regional economies.”

This resolution “requires any contractor or subcontractor, at the time of bidding on a construction contract with the town of Hamburg, to submit appropriate documentation of having currently valid apprenticeship agreements, appropriate with the type and scope of work to be performed, which have been registered with and approved by the New York state commissioner of labor.”

“I just would like to state that, while I certainly think it is important that we have skilled and trained workers in this area, I don’t believe that this is the way to accomplish that,” Walters said, adding that he believes requiring an apprenticeship program has a negative impact on taxpayers, “insomuch that several contractors are unable to bid on public works projects that come before the town, because they simply don’t have, for one reason or another, a certified apprenticeship program. With the decreased number of contractors eligible to bid, obviously that’s going to affect the cost of the project and has the potential impact of increasing the cost of the project.”

Walters added later, “Overall, I think this is the wrong thing. I think it’s going to have an adverse effect on the taxpayer [and] an adverse effect on public works projects that come forward and, for those reasons, I am opposed to this resolution.”

Quinn countered, “A lot of this is about construction. The construction industry is one of the more dangerous industries out there. A lot of times you get some contractors that send kids out into dangerous situations where they don’t know what they’re doing. Now, with an apprenticeship program, they’re guaranteed that they’re trained in safety. You’re guaranteed that they have a high level of craftsmanship to build the buildings and the infrastructure that we as residents use.

“Now if you say it costs a little bit extra, maybe on the front end, but on the back end you’re saving. I believe it’s our duty as town residents, as the town, to make sure that people who work on our projects are trained, and that’s basically what it’s about.”

When asked about using inexperienced apprentices for construction work, Quinn explained, “There are different levels of training. You can’t ask somebody to train for four years and then put them out; after that, their family will starve. When an apprentice goes out, not only is he trained in certain areas of construction, and they make sure that he is trained in the basic safety standards, but he is also put under the guidance of a journeyman in that particular trade, who makes sure that his labor is not exploited, that he’s not put into dangerous situations and that he learns as he goes on the job, in certain respects.”

The audience applauded when the resolution passed.

In other board matters:

– Potter-Juda said, in a resolution, “The town engineering department has been working with CSX Transportation Inc., to have CSX install power-off indicator lights at their Rogers Road and Cloverbank Road railroad crossings, in connection with the town of Hamburg’s ongoing railroad quiet zone project at these locations. These lights are necessary as part of the Federal Railroad Administration requirements for a quiet zone to be established, in order to make approaching train crews aware in the event of a power failure affecting the operation of the signal equipment.”

She said that CSX has prepared and sent the town a construction agreement to be entered into, for this purpose; CSX has required an advance payment of $16,630, to cover the estimated costs for the work. The resolution, which passed unanimously, authorized Walters to sign this agreement with CSX. The dollar amount is to be “reimbursed in full by the federal transportation funding that the town has received for this project.”

– Former Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds Stephen Micak resigned after two days on the job. “He was not terminated,” Quinn clarified. “That’s it. I like the guy.”

– The matter of a posted sign by a 58-year-old retiree and Shooters Committee on Political Education member, regarding the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Enforcement Act, was discussed as new business. The intersection of South Park Avenue and Scranton Road is the site of this sign, which the board said is controversial, only because it is posted on a fence.

“It’s a law,” Potter-Juda said. “You cannot have a sign on a fence. That is the law.”

Quoting the law, Town Attorney Walter Rooth read, “‘No images or language shall be painted, affixed to the outward side of any fence or directed at neighboring property for any reason.

“So he can have a sign on his lawn,” Rooth explained. “He just can’t have a sign on his fence.” The resident is to hire an attorney and appear in court at 10 a.m. on Friday, March 7, in response to the charges.

– Captain Kevin Trask was authorized “to sign police department paperwork ... in the absence of Chief of Police” Michael Williams.

The next board meeting for the town of Hamburg is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, March 10 at the Hamburg Town Hall, located at 6100 S. Park Ave. in Hamburg.
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