Benczkowski delivers her third State of the Town address

Supervisor Diane Benczkowski delivers her annual State of the Town address at Millennium Hotel on January 18th. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)
Supervisor Diane Benczkowski delivers her annual State of the Town address at Millennium Hotel on January 18th. (Jim Herr/Cheektowaga Chronicle)

CHEEKTOWAGA – Cheektowaga Supervisor Diane Benczkowski spoke of development and neighborhood rehabilitation projects, quality of life issues, an increase in grant funding, and the ongoing DEC consent order during her third annual State of the Town address Thursday.

While the thirty-minute speech presented to members of the Cheektowaga Chamber of Commerce and community stakeholders at the Millennium Hotel was peppered with the town’s accomplishments over the past year, Ms. Benczkowski also spoke of initiatives to better the town in the coming year.

Development & Rehabilitation

Latina Boulevard Foods will invest a $500,000 loan from the Cheektowaga Economic Development Corporation to create 15-20 full-time jobs.  The funds will also be used for inventory and working capital.  Work will also continue across the street at the former Gardenvillage Plaza complex bringing a light manufacturing and warehouse project.  Ms. Benczkowski says, “[The project] will create hundreds of well-paying jobs and will continue the positive commercial development we have seen in the French/Union corridor.”

The combining of the Community Development and Housing & Neighborhood Preservation Departments has positioned the town to combat the zombie home problem in town.   Also, a state grant of $250,000 allowed the town to hire additional enforcement officers and clerical staff.  The department completed house-by-house inspections, evaluating
more than 26,000 homes and identifying 528 vacant structures.

“We are actively pursuing full code violation orders on the vacant properties to make the owner, banks, and service providers responsible for the maintenance and compliance with all town ordinances.”

A $500,000 loan from the Housing and Rehabilitation Loan Program has allowed the town the ability to assist 39 property owners according to Ms. Benczkowski. 

Two homes on Lyman and McParlin are currently being rehabilitated, and two additional projects on Hoerner and Woodell will begin in 2018.

Grant Awards

The supervisor said that the town has benefited from $10 million in free grant money since 2016.  She says grants are fundamental to limit the impact on the town’s taxpayer’s pocketbook.

“Cheektowagans certainly pay their fair share of [New York State] and Federal taxes, so why don’t we try and get some of that money back to benefit projects right here in our town?  Applying for grant funding is an area of huge success and importance to trying to limit the impact on our taxpayers.”

From the grant work, $5 million was recently awarded to the town to help address the DEC consent order.

“The monies provide us the ability to make sure clean, storm water does not infiltrate the sanitary sewer system. In 2017, we were able to address 9.9 miles of sewer system, approximately 30% complete. We will continue the rehabilitation with that additional funding.”

Ms. Benczkowski announced that the town plans to use a $250,000 clean energy grant from the New York State Energy Research & Development Authority to invest in electric vehicles and charging stations that incorporate solar technology.

“The idea is to phase out older gas vehicles for new electric vehicles. The electric cars would greatly reduce the cost of gasoline and traditional mechanical maintenance, while the charging stations would be powered by solar energy and reduce utility costs. These cost savings would be set aside for future sustainability projects which would allow the fleet to be renewed in perpetuity.”

Youth and Recreation Funding

The town has committed to spending $1.9 million for youth and recreations programs and another $2.3 million for the maintenance of the town’s parks and athletic fields.

Mirroring her Citizen’s Budget Advisory Committee, the supervisor pledged to form a Citizen’s Youth & Recreation Advisory Council to determine what programs citizens want.

“This will be made up of taxpayers, parents, and youth organizations within our town. We need to make sure the town Youth & Recreation programs are not competing with each other.”

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