Tonawanda News — AMHERST — Town of Tonawanda Supervisor Anthony Caruana spent almost an hour Friday afternoon detailing the state of the town during his annual address at the Ken-Ton Chamber of Commerce Luncheon at Classics V.
Caruana, who has served as supervisor since 2008, spent much of that time detailing the town’s challenges. He frequently mentioned the expensive, state-mandated projects, such as the Parker-Fries project, currently in its second phase.
“This project is the largest and most expensive project in the Town of Tonawanda since the construction of the wastewater treatment plant in the mid 1970s,” Caruana said.
In total, the town has spent $75.5 million on water and sewer infrastructure improvements since 2010.
But the mandated sewer projects are not the only financial challenges that are coming down from the state. Caruana said he’s also worried about implementing the Affordable Care Act, as well as the proposed increase in minimum wage.
The town is currently evaluating the impact the Affordable Care Act will have locally, Caruana said, and the monetary implications of the law will be incorporated into the 2014 budget.
“All municipalities, not just the Town of Tonawanda, are being challenged by this,” Caruana said.
And if the state does increase minimum wage from $7.25 to $9 per hour, the total wages for the the town’s Youth, Parks and Recreation department alone would increase by $350,000, according to officials’ estimates.
“Not to say these people don’t deserve that money ... I certainly believe they do,” Caruana added.
That increase doesn’t include hikes for employees who are already making $9, but have been employed by the town for years — what Caruana called the “domino effect.”
But despite those challenges, Caruana said the town has drastically improved its financial situation in the past few years, and is in good shape to take on the many projects it must complete moving forward.
“This (work) earned the town our high bond rating of Aa2, the highest ever to our knowledge, which greatly helps with bonding and borrowing at low interest rates,” Caruana said.
He also noted a number of cost-cutting measures, including the sharing of Town Assessor Dave Marrano with the City of Tonawanda, as well as the board’s ability to craft a budget that resulted in a tax decrease for residents for the first time in 13 years.
Other positive news Friday included plans for the town’s Wickwire project, which will include the redevelopment of the 60-acre site on River Road that once housed a steel factory.
The town is also working with the state Department of Environmental Conservation and Erie County to demolish a number of derelict buildings in the same area.
“Just days ago, the team completed demolition of a long-vacant eyesore on the former site of Polymer Applications,” Caruana said.
But Caruana also noted the ongoing environmental battle with a plant that’s still standing — Tonawanda Coke. He and the town, he said, will continue to press governmental agencies like the DEC and the Environmental Protection Agency to enforce regulations and keep the area safe from harmful emissions.Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000, ext. 4150