Niagara Gazette

Lewiston

April 20, 2014

Despite Lewiston drainage concerns, official says he's limited in what he can do

Niagara Gazette — Lewiston Highway Superintendent Doug Janese knows there are a lot of drainage issues around his town. As the head of the drainage department as well, it would fall to him to make sure the issues are resolved to the benefit of the residents.

But that’s simply not the case, he said. Because he’s only able to address drainage work affecting the town as a whole, which means unless it’s town property, he can’t make a problem disappear.

To do work on private property, he said, the town board would need to direct him.

“Every resident has the ability to petition the town board on any matter,” he said. “I’m hampered by the fact I’m not allowed to work on private property. The town board could direct me to take care of a problem. Whether or not that’s the town’s response, or whether an issue is something the town board should approve, that’s up to them.”

Janese addressed concerns this past week during a work session of the town board, which discussed the issues of providing drainage support for a number of situations developing throughout the town. He said there are a few requests he’s received recently where the line between public benefit and private property has been blurred and he’s unsure whether the town would see a general benefit to performing the work or not.

Concerns over benefit to the town stems back to a 2011 audit by the state Comptroller’s Office, which questioned the drainage department, then under the leadership of former superintendent and supervisor Steve Reiter, providing service to individual residents with town equipment and manpower.

Janese, who wasn’t at the department until after the time period in question, also had an issue arise in 2012 when the town failed to provide approval for work his crew completed helping the expansion of the Lewiston No. 1 Fire Co. in the village. Since then, Janese has maintained publicly he can’t step foot on private property without board approval, sometimes to the dismay of residents who hadn’t been turned down by his predecessors, he said.

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