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Controversy sparked at Hamburg Town Board meeting

HAMBURG — Despite Hamburg Town Supervisor Steven Walter’s attempts to steer away from a political forum during the town’s last board meeting before Election Day, the diminished role of Councilman Joe Collins came to the attention of some in the audience. Those individuals asked for answers.

During the Oct. 30 meeting, Collins did not move or second any of the 25 resolutions on the agenda. Collins said, at one point, “I don’t get much to say, on this board.”

“Mr. Collins is able to second any resolution he chooses,” Walters clarified. “Mr. Collins voted for every resolution. There was unanimous support for every resolution that the town has brought forth.”

Collins said that he has not been given a resolution for the whole year. “I was taken off, and was taken over, and that’s all I’m going to say,” he added.

However, much more was said, before the meeting was adjourned by the supervisor. “Since the first of the year 2013, they took me off my position,” Collins continued. “I used to do a lot of resolutions. There was a resolution passed by Supervisor Walters and Councilwoman [Amy] Ziegler to take me off and not give me a role, so that’s why. If you look at all the resolutions for the last year, they didn’t give me any.”

Walters said that the boardroom was not the place for “political discussions. I don’t think this is the right venue to have a political discussion. I’d be happy to, after the meeting. Mr. Collins was requested to go to a training, and that’s where we are with that.”

Collins said that a resolution, passed by Walters and Ziegler, took him off of all his positions. “I was outvoted 2-to-1,” he said. “There’s no training required for me, as a councilman. These were things they put together in the back room and came up with a resolution saying that I needed to have training. They did a resolution; the two of them passed it and I have not had any activity on the board on my old committees. I would like an answer to that.”

While Walters said that he was hoping the meeting would not turn political, “obviously it has. Mr. Collins, by an outside investigator, on three separate individual occasions, was found to have violated the town’s harassment policy. Mr. Collins was requested that he attend a harassment training seminar and, because he was found to have violated the town’s harassment [policy] on three separate occasions, his liaison assignments were removed until such time that he attended that harassment training.

“To date, Mr. Collins has not attended that harassment training and, therefore, to date, those liaison assignments have not been reinstated,” Walters continued. “The town board has made it perfectly clear that, should that training be taken, that the liaison assignments would be reinstated.”

Collins said that the investigator was Mary Eisenhower, “who they appoint and they pay to do whatever they want.” He continued, “It’s a position they’ve appointed her to, and she has done the investigation. I met with the police department ... and they told me there’s no training. There is a course that he gave me a look at.”

Walters said that Collins “walked out on” the mandated training. He added, “Both [he and Ziegler] went through [the training]. Every employee of the town of Hamburg has undergone that training; every single one. This is not the correct forum for a political discussion.”

After the meeting, Collins said, “Those guys got to go. It’s bullying. That’s what it is.”

In other board matters:
– Plans to enact a “quiet zone” on Rogers Road will be moving forward.

– A public hearing regarding Local Law No. 11, entitled “Amendment to the code of the town of Hamburg [lacing a six-month moratorium on electronic variable message signs within the town,” was held, during the meeting. According to the resolution, “The purpose of this local law is to amend the code to place a six-month moratorium on the processing, permitting and/or construction of electronic variable message signs within the town to allow for the drafting and adoption of amendments to the code of the town of Hamburg affecting these types of signs. These amendments ... will amend the location where electronic variable message signs may be allowed, set design requirements and such other regulations as may be necessary to promote and preserve the health, safety and welfare of the town of Hamburg and its citizens.”

Drew Reilly of the planning department explained, “This is a moratorium. It’s a time period where we will not accept applications for new electronic variable message signs; the flashing signs, the electronic signs. The reason why it’s being put in place is because ... the code review committee gets codes referred to them when they think they’re not working correctly in the town. A couple of clues that they’re not working correctly is that we receive a lot of variance requests for electronic signs. I believe just about every electronic sign that’s come to the town has requested a variance from the law saying they cannot meet the law.”

Reilly said that, over the years, “we’ve adopted different sections of the code that refer to signage, so there’s a lot of different sections of the code that have signage requirements, and sometimes these conflict. So because we have to change all those sections and we don’t want people to keep applying for electronic variable message signs, while we’re changing these laws, we’re asking for a moratorium.”

Kenneth Peskin of the International Sign Association opposed the moratorium. “We understand it’s likely to occur anyways,” he added.

– The board authorized Walters to sign an agreement between the town and the Hamburg Snowmobile Club, subject to the club’s meeting insurance and other requirements, in regard to using property located at the Electric Avenue playground “for the development of snowmobile trails.”

– Christopher Kolb of the buildings and grounds department was terminated from his part-time position and rehired to a full-time position as a laborer. “I do any jobs that are asked of me,” Kolb said. “I do it to the best of my ability and above and beyond what I can.”

– The board voted to reduce the “no parking” restrictions at both Oakwood Avenue, south side, and Elmwood Avenue, south side. The resolution explained, “No parking restrictions will now be posted from South Park Avenue to Powers Road.”

– With the recommendation of the Traffic Safety Advisory Board, a “stop ahead” sign is scheduled to be posted and maintained by the buildings and grounds department, “in accordance with the New York state Manuel of Traffic Control Devices,” on Fairgrounds Road as it approaches Sowles Road.

– The present speed limit of 35 mph on Cloverbank Road will be reduced to 30 mph from the rail lines to Rogers Road. Signs will be erected and maintained by the town.

The next Hamburg Town Board meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, Nov. 25. All meetings are held at the Hamburg Town Hall, which is located at 6100 South Park Ave. in Hamburg.
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