Fredonia board questions border security project

The Fredonia Village Board continued its questioning of the proposed $450,000 camera/radar tower that would help the U.S. Border Protection Department in improving its surveillance of illegal immigrants coming across the Great Lakes.

During Monday’s meeting, border patrol officials out of Buffalo and from the Army Corps of Engineers informed the board that they wish to finalize a 30-year lease agreement for property at the village’s wastewater treatment plant by the end of September. The short timeframe is mainly due to fiscal year issues.

“We wanted the plans that the Corps prepared reviewed by an independent engineer, viewing it solely from the village point of view to make sure there was no impact on the plant,” Village Attorney Samuel Drayo said, presenting a $7,500 O’Brien & Gere Engineers Inc. proposal to Jennifer Janik of the Army Corps.

Drayo added the proposal includes confirming available electric capacity for the plant’s distribution system and predicting if the tower would put any unnecessary stress on the plant’s electrical output.

He argued that he believes the Corps is doing an honest job with this project, but the initial site for the tower had a fall zone that would have hit the plant.

“Obviously, we would need to audit the cost of that, and it’s based on actual expenditure, but overall, going through our independent cost estimators, that ($7,500) estimate just sounded very high for reviewing plans that are already stamped and reviewed,” Janik replied. “We’re not saying an additional review is not required, it’s really the cost. We will take this back, though, to our estimators to determine if the cost is reasonable.”

Trustee Susan Mackay expressed concerns about the project and stated she more than likely will vote “no” on the agreement if her questions are not addressed.

“I want to know if there is a need and if the threat (of illegal immigrants crossing Lake Erie) is there, and I’m wondering why satellites aren’t enough already,” she said. “I’m just concerned that it’s a great deal of money, it’s quite invasive on the property (and people’s privacy), and what is the need?”

Matthew Densmore, border patrol agent in charge at Buffalo, replied that just because someone crosses the border does not mean authorities would immediately go and speak with them; only when that person arrives on land, as well as when two boats meet at the border, would agents arrive and interrogate them.

Densmore added he would present Mackay with solid evidence on a need for the tower.

Fredonia Mayor Stephen Keefe told Mackay that “all you need is once” to prove the tower is worth it, and that Fredonia is a “soft target” for illegal immigrants.

“The site being picked would not, in any way, be obstructive to the plant,” Wastewater Plant Chief Operator Betsy Sly noted. “It would be outside the gate …”

Also during the meeting, the board finalized a list of roads due for chip sealing and crack filling, subject to vendor availability and weather. Streets due for chip sealing include: Barker, Bernett, Canadaway, Dunn, Eagle (Lakeview to village line), Forbes, George’s, Nance, Orchard, Porter, Prospect (Elm to Eagle), Risley, Ryan, Skyeandro and Viola. A total of 39 other streets are on the list for crack filling. Total cost for materials and services will not exceed $80,000.

A first and final payment of $34,925 was approved to be forwarded to STC Construction Inc. of Springville for labor and materials for the installation of the bar screen at the wastewater plant. The previous bar screen was falling apart and in need of constant repairs.

The Chautauqua Citizens Respond to Climate Crisis group was permitted to hold an educational rally on climate change at the Barker Common Gazebo on Sept. 20 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.

The resignation of Keith Panek, motor equipment operator, for the purpose of retirement, was approved. Keefe thanked Panek for his 28 years of service to the village.

One full-time wastewater plant utility worker position was eliminated due to the impending closure of the Carriage House and the financial and operational impact on village operations.

Karen Christopherson was appointed deputy registrar of vital statistics for a term ending in December 2016.

The Fredonia Professional Firefighters Association was allowed to hold a Muscular Dystrophy Association boot drive on the corners of Temple and Church streets on Friday from noon until 5 p.m.

The board went into executive session to discuss potential litigation.

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