Niagara Gazette

March 18, 2014

Lewiston Town Board OKs funding for attorney in CWM expansion fight

By Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Lewiston's formal agreement with Niagara County to oppose the possible expansion of Chemical Waste Management's landfill operation was approved by the four-member town board during a special session Tuesday.

Town board members Alfonso Bax, Michael Marra and Ronald Winkley voted to have Supervisor Dennis Brochey sign a contract addressing the funding of environmental attorney Gary Abraham and a team of scientists to oppose any action taken by the Town of Porter-based company in state hearings that may be called as part of the expansion process.

Tuesday's vote creates a payment schedule of sorts, finally putting into writing an informal agreement begun while Fred Newlin served as town supervisor.

Last autumn, the town board approved sending $50,000 to Niagara County to cover the expense of Abraham's services. Much of the money – $32,000 – from the payment is still in escrow, awaiting use. Once spent, the county would be responsible for covering the next $50,000 of services.

The agreement repeats this cycle once more, totaling $200,000, before expiring. If Abraham's services are still needed at this point, the contract allows for renegotiation to determine further payment.

Brochey was the only member of the board to vote against the contract, though he said his concern is financial-based, not due to any opposition to the town's longstanding efforts to stop CWM. He said the town's future is looking questionable at this point and even though the town specifically set aside the money in the budget, it doesn't necessarily mean the town's remaining $50,000 is physically available.

"We really don't know if there's money there for this," Brochey said. "You can write anything you want down on paper (in a budget). It doesn't mean it's actually there. If we don't have the money, where's it going to come from?"

Besides financial arrangements, the contract as approved by the town contains language granting the town access to Abraham on a professional level. The final paragraph of terms provides the board information through the county's attorney-client agreement.

Board members like Bax have argued previously the town, paying half of the bill, deserved such access to review data being gathered for any upcoming legal battle.

"Everything we asked for is there," Bax said.

A final aspect of the agreement provides for equalization of expense should Abraham's services not require the entire agreed amount. In the instance this happens, the contract states the two municipalities will end up paying the same amount.

In other news, the board confirmed it is interviewing eight prospective applicants for the vacant position on the board created by the retirement of Ernie Palmer last month.

The interviews, conducted in executive session Tuesday, could lead to a decision as quickly as the board's next meeting, set for 6:30 p.m. Monday at town hall, 1375 Ridge Road, Lewiston, officials said. 

Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.