By Michael Regan
The Tonawanda News
A small parcel of city-owned property deeded to a not-for-profit group that builds homes for wounded veterans was approved by the North Tonawanda Common Council on Tuesday evening.
But the bulk of the land, located on Sherwood Avenue and Wall Street, was donated by a local resident to Homes For Our Troops, an organization serving severely disabled veterans wounded in action during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Mayor Rob Ortt, himself a veteran of Afghanistan with the Army National Guard, said the organization contacted the city assessor earlier this year, who then turned the initiative over to the city.
After combing the city looking for an adequate site, the assessor found property owned by Mike Wachowicz, who then donated it the group. The city’s contribution adds a much smaller sliver to the brunt, largely to “square off the lot,” according to Ortt.
Homes For Our Troops is anxious to launch the project, which will entail a ranch-style home built that is handicapped accessible for Marine Lance Corporal Paul Schaus. Construction should begin sometime in the spring.
Schaus lost both legs above the knees and the ring finger on his left hand June 5, 2009, when he stepped on a land mine during a firefight with insurgents in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan.
After being critically injured and going into cardiac arrest, Schaus was airlifted to a military hospital in Germany, then transferred to the Bethesda Naval Medical Center in the United States. He’s undergone years of rehabilitation at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.
A native Western New Yorker, Schaus was able to choose from three ideal locations to live in the region, North Tonawanda being one of them.
“We’re going to do our part to work with them,” Ortt said of the organization.
In other council news:
• A renewal of an agreement between the city and Diane Sheehan of the Youth Court Services was approved. The measure will continue first-offender services to the court through Sheehan, who is an independent contractor.
• Permission to use Gratwick Park and the closure of Western Street from Tremont to Sweeney was approved, allowing “New Years on the Canal” to move forward with its Dec. 31 festivities.
Contact reporter Michael Regan
at 693-1000, ext. 4115.