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Land Bank offers option for problem properties

The North Collins Village Board learned at its February 5 meeting that its joint request for continued funding of Rural Transit had been approved, but an individual request for a Community Development House Demolition grant had been refused. However, Code Enforcement Officer Phil Tremblay brought information on the Erie County Land Bank that could offer solutions for problem properties in the village. At its simplest, the village would identify parcels it is concerned with. The land bank would acquire title and demolish or rehabilitate the property depending on its condition. The land bank would then sell the property keeping the proceeds and also receive half of the municipal tax on it for five years following. Those funds would be used to continue the land bank’s programs. There would be a cost to the village other than the half tax loss as the county would not pay the village taxes on an abandoned house once the land bank has taken title. The Board expressed optimism for the program and would like additional details. The Land Bank program is currently trying to obtain additional funding to begin its process.

In a related matter Mayor Vincent George announced that several village businesses had agreed to participate in a county-led Commercial Center Improvement Program. That program would see the county award 50 percent matching grants for businesses committing the remaining 50 percent for renovation. The village had actively notified businesses about the program and George added that other businesses would be welcome to participate in the future.

The Board also formally endorsed a Resolution created by the Brant Town Board questioning the recent gun control legislation rushed through Albany at the Governor’s request. Among the main points was the speed at which the law was passed leaving little or no time for legislative or public review and comment.

Police Administrator Richard Cooper reported that while all officers as well as Town Justice Stevens had been trained on its use, the recently purchased “taser” for town court use may not be able to be used by officers on patrol. Cooper pointed to some wording in the federal grant used to purchase the device. He is working with Village Attorney Richard Schaus to examine the wording in hopes of its greater utilization.

Mayor George took the occasion to deny rumors circulating that funeral details by village officers would cease. There are no such plans.

To head off any complications come budget time, the Board approved a public hearing on February 19 at 7 p.m. for a hearing on a proposal to raise taxes above the 2 percent State mandated cap. Attorney Schaus explained that while there may be no need to raise the budget, the board would be wise to protect itself in case of additional need. The village enacted a similar local law last year but did not exceed the cap.

Procedures for drug and alcohol testing for volunteer members of the Fire Department were discussed. In consultation with the village attorney Mayor George does not believe the volunteers to be employees of the village and as such not covered under the village mandates for substance tests. Schaus recommended that the Fire Company Board of Directors develop its own policy and submit it to the Village for review.

Deputy Dog Warden Rob Ebersole reported that a state inspection of the kennels found only the lack of heated kennels for injured dogs and the situation has been addressed. Questioned about a dog census in the village, Ebersole said he would like to conduct one. He reported though that he has been unable to locate the village law that restricts households to a two dog maximum. The board will utilize the newsletter in upcoming water bills to remind residents of the restriction.

Trustee Paul Carozzi suggested the possibility of metering one of the village fire hydrants for use by outside fire companies and water haulers. With the recent upgrade in the system he believes the village could handle the extra volume. While not opposed the Board decided to wait until the new pump house is installed and operating.

Trustee Karen Denne reported complaints over the rail crossings through the village. It was noted that there has been increased train traffic as well with crude oil shipments coming through on a regular basis. Mayor George said the rail line is owned by the County Industrial Agency and leased to the Buffalo Southern Railway. Communication will be established to see if a solution can be found.

Bills totaling $74,922.57 were approved for payment.


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