News from Kenmore-Tonawanda, NY
Only one of those candidates, Danielle Opalinski, is currently serving on the board. And she isn’t considered an incumbent, since she has filling out the term of a resigned board member since February. But she is no stranger to the process of running for the school board. Opalinski, a mother of six, ran unsuccessfully in 2011, losing by just 14 votes.
Opalinski has also served as a member of the district’s budget advisory team for the past four years. She also helps with a scrapbooking studio called My Happy Place, located on Grove Street. All six of her children currently attend Tonawanda schools.
“I’ve consistently been at board meetings since 2009,” she said back in February after her appointment to the board. “With six kids, I do pay attention to the issues. They know that I’m informed with what’s going on in the schools.”
Another familiar face who will appear on the ballot is Elizabeth Olka. Like Opalinski, Olka is no stranger to the district, and especially the board, which she first joined after winning election in 2008. She is currently serving as the president of the Tonawanda Parent Teacher Student Association (PTSA).
Her term on the board, however, was not without controversy. She was forced to resign from her board seat in 2011 following a guilty plea for harassment after she was accused of sending numerous text messages, e-mails and social media messages to the daughter of a board member. Since then, Olka has been a familiar face at board meetings, often video recording them and asking questions of the board members. She also served on the district’s budget advisory committee this year.
“I am running for the Board of Education because I have too much knowledge about our district to sit back and watch us head down a road of financial and/or educational insolvency,” she said. “It is time to use my knowledge and experience to protect this district, the students who attend and the taxpayers who live here.”
Olka, a certified social studies teacher for grades 5-12, serves as a substitute teacher for grades K-12 and has a master’s degree in education, a bachelor’s degree in business and an associate’s degree in humanities and social science.
“I believe I can offer intelligent solutions to the challenges this district will continue to face,” Olka said. My knowledge of this district and my background in business and education makes me the perfect candidate to help move us through this difficult time.
Then there is newcomer Fred Busch. The former Tonawanda High School graduate and Warrior football player returned to the area previously living in Washington, D.C. and North Carolina. Busch, a former police officer for the D.C. Police Department, also served as a senior budget analyst for the federal government before becoming a business owner.
“I am running for the school board because I am interested in our school system and the challenges it faces. I believe that my experience in program development and budget management can contribute to the work of the board and the community,” he said. “I am not entering this race with any preset agenda or preconceived ideas. I want to learn as much as I can about the issues and then work as a team player to develop the best solutions.”
Busch believes that, despite being hamstrung by state and federal mandates, the role of a school board is just as important as ever.
“We represent the voice of the people at the community level. A local school board is responsible for implementing mandates in the way that they best serve the people of that community,” he said. “It is the best opportunity for citizens to have input, influence and knowledge of what is happening in their schools and the only ability to retain some measure of local control.”
Geraldine Angelo will also appear on the ballot. Angelo joined the City of Tonawanda Volunteer Fire Department in 1995. In that role, she served as the company secretary and company president. She is still a non-active volunteer member with National Hose Co #1. She also served on the PTSA at Riverview Elementary school before becoming president of the group.
“I am a mom of three children that all currently attend the city of Tonawanda schools. I am an alumnus of Tonawanda (High School), and graduated in 1990,” she said. “I feel as I am vested in the City of Tonawanda. My husband Denny and I have lived here our entire lives. We chose to stay in Tonawanda and raise our family.”
A meet the candidates’ night, sponsored by the Tonawanda PTSA, is scheduled for Thursday.
City of North Tonawanda Attorney Shawn Nickerson spoke on behalf of the city at Tuesday’s meeting, during which he noted the city received the “green light” for advertising.
“This is the document we have been waiting for from the New York State DOT (Department of Transportation), which basically green lights the project and allows us to advertise it, and send it out to bid,” said Nickerson. “We are hoping to advertise that straight a way and hopefully award the bid the first meeting in June.”
In addition to receiving approval for advertisement of the Meadow Drive Extension, City Engineer Dale Marshall requested the council approve the award of a construction contract for the Wastewater Treatment Plant Carbon Filter Building Make Up Air Project to Quackenbush Co., Inc, in the amount of $461,000.
The city awarded the bid, as Dave Scott superintendent of Water and Wastewater, feels this projects is a necessity due to changes in regulations that will be enforced come 2014.
In other city news:
• The council approved a May special for the Deerwood Golf Course.
“There are certain down times during the week that we would like to invite golfers to utilize,” said Patricia Brosius, director of parks and recreation. “So will be offering specials through May for those times.”
Specials can be found on the recreation departments website.
• Mayor Rob Ortt presented Lauren Roberts, of North Tonawanda, with a proclamation of recognition for her, and her friends, genuine and selfless efforts as they sent 200 letters to the victims, and families, of those afflicted by the Boston Bombings.
• May is Meals on Wheels month.
• A workshop, which will pertain to discussions of city business will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 14 at City Hall, 216 Payne Ave., North Tonawanda.
The council accepted a bid Tuesday for a new heavy rescue truck fire apparatus. The winning bid came from VT Hackney Inc. on North Carolina, which will be awarded $327,517 for the apparatus. Fire officials have long said the city’s current heavy rescue vehicle woefully outdated and in need of constant repair. But budget constraints and other economic factors saw the council take a pass on a new vehicle, instead choosing to upkeep the current vehicle.
Both Fire Chief Charles Stuart and city mechanic William Szortyka told city officials the current rescue truck had long ago served its usefulness and expected life span. Eventually, officials relented and allowed Stuart to put the job out to bid.
In other business, the council joined the chorus of local, state and federal officials in condemning Tonawanda Coke after the Military Road facility was recently found to be criminally responsible for contaminating neighboring homes with benzene and other pollutants. The council approved a measure joining U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins in asking that funds from fines against Tonawanda Coke, which could total $200 million, be used for “remediation and the enhancement of the environment in the neighborhood surrounding the plant.”
Higgins is asking U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to use any money gained in fines from the Town of Tonawanda plant, whose fumes have reached some City of Tonawanda homes nearby, for the same purpose. Tonawanda Coke was recently found to be in violation of the Federal Clean Air Act in U.S. District Court in Buffalo.
“It looks like we’re going to come up with a unified approach,” Tonawanda Mayor Ronald Pilozzi said Tuesday after meeting with representatives from Higgins’ office, as well as other state and local officials. “We don’t want them to get a slap on the wrist. We want to make sure people go to jail.”
President: David Catalano
First Vice President: Anthony Gorney
Second Vice President: Ernest Tsakiris
Rec. Secretary: Donald Unkrich
Treasurer: James Zeller
Wardens: Mark Belis, William A. Drenko and Rodd Bieron
Chief: Brendan Kiefer
First Assistant Chief: Shannon Whitney
Second Assistant Chief: Daniel Zeller
Firemanic Captains: Nicholas Coniglio and David Kimmins
Firemanic Lieutenants: Peter D. Breitnauer, Richard Binner, David McGregor and Eric Prentiss
EMS Captain: Anthony Heibel
EMS Lieutenant: Mark Conboy
Incumbent Mayor Ronald Pilozzi, running for a third term, will once again face Rick Davis for the city’s top job. Pilozzi is the endorsed Republican, while Davis has received the nod from the city’s Democratic committee to once again vie for the mayor’s office.
Both men are decorated military veterans. Pilozzi, an officer in the U.S. Army, served in Vietnam, receiving a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star among other commendations during his career before earning an honorable discharge as a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve. Davis joined the Air Force in 1992 as a meteorologist and served for nine years. In that time, he was awarded the Conspicuous Service Medal, New York State’s highest military award.
Davis, who has worked as a meteorologist for the Federal Aviation Association since 2001, was a 4th Ward Councilman from 2006-2009 and is a former member of the Spaulding Fiber Steering Committee. He is a married father of seven who was born and raised in the city, graduating from Tonawanda High School in 1991.
Davis is critical of Pilozzi’s record, especially of a recent pay raise he and the council voted in for themselves. Like several other candidates have in past local races, Davis has said he will take part of his salary and donate it to five youth-focused organizations.
“I never voted yes on a pay raise for myself during my time on the council. However, the mayor allowed a 33 percent pay raise to go through for himself and a pay raise for the council as well. This sends the wrong message in this economy to all the hard working people of the city,” Davis said.
Davis is also critical of the mayor’s community development record, especially the city’s Community Development Agency, “that is staffed by the mayor, his wife, and the mayor’s brother-in-law; none of which has a degree nor a background in development,” Davis said, adding “The fact that you can look at North Tonawanda’s downtown versus our downtown and it’s night and day. That’s not our downtown merchants fault, but the fault of our mayor.”
For his part, Pilozzi cites his work on the former Spaulding Fiber demolition and redevelopment, as well as the proposed Little League Drive housing development as some of his proudest accomplishments as mayor. He also says that while health care and pensions costs have skyrocketed over the past few years, he has been able to rein in spending and keep residents from seeing large tax increases.
“This year the property tax increase was less than 1 percent. In order to save money, the administration has negotiated changes in the city’s health insurance program and contract for solid waste disposal,” he said.
Pilozzi is just as proud of the quality of life improvements the city has seen under his watch. From a new waterfront pavilion and improvements along the city’s shorelines, city residents will be able to enjoy a new range of summer activities with minimal costs, according to Pilozzi.
“Assuming proper future management, the grants we have won and a reasonable user fee will pay the entire cost of the construction of the pavilion and not cost City property taxpayers a dime,” he said. “My team has proven it is a winner in getting the job done and if I’m re-elected, this team will keep winning for the City of Tonawanda.”
Activities Director Robin Hibbert said the dance is a new and exciting way for residents to get their bodies moving; tone their muscles; and improve their posture, stamina, coordination and confidence.
Did you know it takes 121 muscles to shimmy your hips for belly dancing? The movement burns 450 calories per hour, leaving no muscle group untouched.
The Habbi of the Nile website explains, “Belly dance is a non-impact weight-bearing exercise, which is especially good for women since it can reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Depending on the intensity of the exercise, participants can increase breathing and raise their heartbeat, which can assist in building cardiovascular strength.”
For more information about Kenwell, contact Sybil Rowe-Middlebrooks at 877-7171.
Ortt and Jesse Gooch, proprietor of Painters Plus, announced that the third annual Project HOPE (“Helping Others Paint Exteriors”), a citywide contest for extensive sprucing up of a home, will take place the weekend of Aug. 17 (rain date of August 24).
For the third year in a row, Gooch will team up with Ortt and other city officials to assist with the project. In addition, members of the Chamber of Commerce of the Tonawandas and local businesses will be supporting the event.
“It has always been my passion to help people and to make a difference in my community” said Gooch, noting that a desire to prevent the onset of blight in North Tonawanda is at the heart of Project HOPE. “During these tough economic times, it has been a struggle for people to maintain or improve their homes. I have seen many homes in the area that have loose and peeling paint, dingy colors, and rotted siding.”
Last year, the initial Project HOPE was a huge success with helping out a local property owner who lives on Robinson Street, and the year before on Wheatfield Street.
“My question is, ‘Are these people neglecting their homes or do they want to improve their homes but don’t have the physical or financial means?’” Gooch said. “I believe that in many cases it’s not neglect. And that’s what drove me to start and continue with the Painters Plus Project.”
The winner of Project HOPE will have their home pressure washed, primed, and painted by the “PP Crew” and their volunteers. Gooch plans to select a person or family that is either disabled, elderly, suffering financial hardships, or a disabled veteran.
“I am excited to be a part of this project for the third year of its existence. This is a great project, and it brings the community together and helps people in the process” Mayor Ortt said. “I applaud Jesse and Painters Plus for giving back to North Tonawanda. We are happy to have a business like this in our city and I know they are happy to be here.”
The paint for Project HOPE will be provided by Sherwin Williams, located on Meadow Drive in North Tonawanda.
Applications for Project HOPE may be submitted three ways:
1 Online at www.PaintersPlus.US, or
2. Mail a letter to Painters Plus at 800 Walck Road, North Tonawanda 14120, or
3. Pick up an application at the Chamber of Commerce on Webster Street
Applicants are asked to, in a short paragraph, introduce themselves, explain their particular hardship situation, and provide pictures of their house. They are also asked to provide their name, address, and a telephone number they can be reached at. Photos will not be returned.
Deadline for application submission will be Friday, July 20.
Additional information is available at 716-693-PLUS(7587) or by email at email@example.com.
During May, residents will be collecting used sunglasses and prescription eyeglasses and ship them to the Lions Eyeglass Recycling Centers, where they will be cleaned, categorized by prescription and prepared for distribution.
Through this unique recycling program, the Lions Club and other groups will distribute the glasses to those in need in developing countries where eye care is often unaffordable and inaccessible.
“Donating to charity is an important part of the lives of those who live and work at Wynwood Kenmore,” said Beth Ann Haseley, executive director. “Many of the seniors living at our community wish to remain a part of charitable events and fundraising. It’s in their nature and it’s Wynwood’s goal to help them continue activities important to them.”
Donations can be dropped off from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. throughout the month of May at Wynwood Kenmore, 2971 Delaware Ave., Kenmore. For more information, call Katie Burzynski at 874-3200.
Tonawanda residents are encouraged to attend the session featuring presentations from Erie County Senior Public Health Sanitarian, Peter Tripi, Tonawanda Superintendent of Highways, William Swanson and a representative from the town’s building department, all discussing how to prepare and protect homes and yards from rats this summer. Learn how to properly store and manage your garbage and other wastes, and to discourage unwanted pests from settling in your neighborhood. This is your opportunity to strategize with the lead governmental officials and your neighbors on how to work together to rid the community of rats.
Highway supervisor Swanson will provide an update and review of the town’s solid waste and recycling programs and guidelines. “Increasing citizen participation in the curbside recycling program is not only good for the environment but also helps reduce the cost of the town’s garbage disposal service,” said Swanson.
The speakers will also recap the 2012 rodent control efforts by reviewing the services each agency provided to citizens in their neighborhoods, and also answer questions and engage the audience through open panel discussions.
Additional events are being planned for this year’s Environmental Speakers Series and will be listed at www.tonawanda.ny.us .
Come enjoy swimming, field trips and guest speakers in a small group setting in our air-conditioned gym.
Early bird discounts are available. Apply before May 25.
For information and registration call 692-5580.
The camp is located at the YWCA Tonawandas, 49 Tremont St., North Tonawanda.
Come learn how to smoke and change the flavor of pork, chicken or any other meat you desire. We will even grill a delicious salad that will be sure to impress at your next cook out.
Class will be held from 6 to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 14. The class will fill up fast so call 692-5580 today to reserve your spot.
The cost for six one-hour sessions is $60 for members and $65 for non-members. The session will take place at 10 a.m. Wednesday, May 15 through Wednesday, June 19 at the YWCA Tonawandas, 49 Tremont St., North Tonawanda.
For more information and course enrollment, call 692-5580.