MAKING IT OFFICIAL — Gowanda Village Clerk Kathy Mohawk administers the oath of office to, from left, re-elected Trustee John Certis, newly appointed Mayor Heather McKeever and re-elected Trustee Dale DeCarlo. (Photo by Mary Pankow)
As the Village of Gowanda prepares to entire its next fiscal year, the traditional appointments and committee assignments were made at Monday evening's reorganizational meeting. Before those were done, however, a swearing-in ceremony was held.
As Village Clerk Kathy Mohawk administered the oath of office, newly appointed Mayor Heather McKeever, and re-elected Trustees Dale DeCarlo and John Certis were sworn in.
Prior to proceeding with the official business, however, Mayor McKeever allowed the half dozen or so residents in attendance to briefly comment further on the tentative budget, which was introduced at the March 27 meeting.
Don Girome was first to be recognized, and he asked why the village board had decided to approve the tax-cap override.
Treasurer Cindy Schilling addressed his question, explaining the decision on the override was not up to the residents, and that it was a safety measure. "There were mandated things that the board had no control over," she said, referring to some of the budget increases that could push the percentage above 2 percent. This includes health insurance and retirement costs, cost of gas.
Just because the board approved the override, that doesn't mean that they have to use it, Schilling said. It's there just in case the budget exceeds the 2 percent, in which case it protects the village from incurring huge fines.
The tax cap is considered a "good-will gesture" and encourages villages, towns and schools to "not go crazy in the budgeting process."
"There's been a lot of conscientious effort," Schilling said, "to keep spending under control in Gowanda."
John Pierce was next to speak and said that his research revealed that there are about 2,700 residents in Gowanda, and about 1,100 households, according to the 2010 census. The per capita income per person is about $16,000, he said, and 14 percent of the population are below the poverty level. Many village residents are on fixed incomes, he said.
Pierce noted that one of the biggest increases over the past years has been in workers' comp, with this year's budget allowing for $32,000 in that particular line item. Also, further inquiries found that Gowanda's incident rate is high.
Treasurer Schilling responded to Pierce's comments, saying that the highest claims have been in the fire and police departments. They are all working on additional training to reduce accident claims.
Pierce then asked about garbage pick up.
Trustee Carol Sheibley worked on the disposal negotiations and noted that for the service that Gowanda is receiving, it would normally cost $212,000, not the $168,000 that it will cost the village this year, a considerable savings. She added that the waste management contract for the recyclables is regarded as "commingled," or not glass, plastic, etc. specific depending on the week.
Janet Vogtli spoke next, asking if the village had gotten anywhere with the FEMA funding that is due the village.
According to Schiller, FEMA is "hearing the heat from Schumer's office." Also, because the projects were so massive in scope, resulting from the flooding, they are going through them item by item. Despite the efforts of Schilling and former Public Works Superintendent Mike Hutchinson to document each project thoroughly, there is supposed confusion on FEMA's end.
Vogtli mentioned that she'd like to see the village compose a five-year plan, and again mentioned the funds for Gowanda Free Library. She still firmly believes that the $5,500 allocated for the library should be put back into the budget, and that the village board needs to prioritize. Fire and public safety are important, she said.
She then asked about the Recreation Program costs. She suggested that the village could perhaps get out of the recreation program, and that a church or other entity could provide recreational outlets for the kids.
Sheibley said that she has "a real problem cutting recreation. I'm passionate about recreation." She added that between 120 and 150 kids were signed up for recreation last summer. Also, over the last four years, the budget allocation for recreation has decreased, not increased.
Joe Vogtli, last to speak, expressed his dismay over the money for Gowanda Library. He said that some residents get hit four times for libraries in their taxes.
McKeever stated, "We want to be fiscally responsible. We realize this is a tough year." She also said that during their workshop, held prior to the reorganizational meeting, the board had trimmed $2,600 from the budget so far.
Those who have any budget suggestions may e-mail them to: firstname.lastname@example.org
It was then on with the rest of the annual official business.
The official appointments are as follows: Trustee (to fill the remaining one year of Heather McKeever's term) - Paul Zimmermann, Deputy Mayor - Dale DeCarlo, Village Clerk/Deputy Treasurer - Kathy Mohawk, Treasurer/Deputy Clerk - Cindy Schilling, Affirmative Action Officer - Kathy Mohawk, Animal Control Officer - Mary Dankert, Building Inspector - Gary Brecker, Assessor - George Stark, Historian - Phil Palen, Disaster Coordinator - Nick Crassi, Village Engineer - Mark Burr, Registrar - Kathy Mohawk, Deputy Registrar - Becky Kuhs, Sub Registrar - Louise Hubbard, Village Attorney - Deborah Chadsey, Tree Committee - Jack Torrance, Tree Committee - Gary Denea, Planning Board (three years) - Kim Luther, Planning Board (four years) - Tim McKeever, Planning Board (five years) - Ralph Swanson.
The Committee Assignments for 2012-13 are as follows: Audit Committee - Dale DeCarlo, Carol Sheibley; Beautification - Paul Zimmermann; Building Inspector - Heather McKeever, Dale DeCarlo; Building Maintenance - Dale DeCarlo, Carol Sheibley; Cattaraugus Creek Basin Task Force - Heather McKeever, Paul Zimmermann; Disaster Coordinator Liaison - Heather McKeever, Dale DeCarlo; Employee Negotiation - John Certis, Heather McKeever; Police Commissioner - Heather McKeever; Fire Commissioner - Paul Commissioner; Gowanda Central School - John Certis, Heather McKeever, Carol Sheibley; Lighting - Carol Sheibley; Main Office and Administration - Heather McKeever; Neighborhood Watch - Heather McKeever, Paul Zimmermann; Ordinances - Dale DeCarlo, John Certis; Parks (Creekside and Chang-Hu) - Paul Zimmermann; Public Works Departments - Heather McKeever; Recreation - Carol Sheibley, John Certis; Safety Officer - Dale DeCarlo; Sidewalks - Carol Sheibley; Solid Waste and Recycling - Carol Sheibley; Thatcher Brook Task Force - Paul Zimmermann, Heather McKeever, Carol Sheibley, John Certis, Dale DeCarlo; Tree Commission - Paul Zimmermann; Tri-County Memorial Hospital - Dale DeCarlo, Heather McKeever.
Annual resolutions that were also made April 2 include:
• The regular meetings of the Board of Trustees will be held on the second and fourth Tuesdays of the month at 7 p.m.
• HSBC Bank USA; Community Bank, N.A.; First Niagara Bank; MBIA/CLASS; and Chase Bank are the official depositories of village funds for the ensuing year.
• Any non-profit village-oriented organization will be allowed use of the village parking lots for approved special events on a no-fee basis. Requests must be filed at least 30 days in advance with a certificate of insurance. The organization involved will be responsible for all cleanup as directed by the Public Works Department.