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Boston Board asks for SAFE Act amendment

BOSTON — The Boston Town Board held its public hearing during a meeting on March \6. The hearing focused on the New York Secure Ammunition and Firearms Act of 2013 and gave Boston residents the chance to express their opinions, regarding the recent New York state legislation.

Several of those in attendance – including Councilman Jay Boardway – clarified where they stood, in relation to officials’ expressed attempts to regulate the use of firearms, in this state. Some residents also spoke about the issue.

“This is an informational hearing, regarding a resolution that this board proposes to pass, requesting specifically [Gov. Andrew Cuomo] of New York to rescind and amend the New York state SAFE Act,” Boardway explained. “As interested parties are aware, on Jan. 14 of this year, our Second Amendment rights, in this state, were trampled on [and] infringed upon. Parts of them [were] taken away. In my position here as a representative for 8,032 residents in this town, I can’t sit here and let that happen.

Boardway said that he is a gun owner, hunter and life member of the National Rifle Association. “I have been involved in these sports for all of my life,” he added. “I’ve taught my children all these same things, that they hunt [and that] they’re safe with firearms. To have the state government come in and decide, under what the governor called ‘a message of necessity,’ that he could infringe upon our rights, take these rights right away from us; it’s intolerable to me.”

Boardway has proposed a resolution for the board to oppose the SAFE Act, on the recommendation of people in the town. “We want the town residents to have the opportunity to be heard, either for or against this resolution,” he added.

Steven Alstat, a member of the Boston Valley Conservation Club, urged the board to pass the proposed resolution, which asked for the SAFE Act to be repealed. “There’s virtually nothing in this law that is worth amending or saving,” he said. “Even the best parts of this law, the parts that add restrictions for using a gun on a crime, aren’t necessarily going to do much, because the problem is not that we don’t have proper sentences for committing crimes. The problem is that the gun crimes are typically plea-bargained away and if they would simply enforce the laws, as they are, the people who are committing crimes with guns would be in jail and not out in the street.”

Alstat said that, in his opinion, the SAFE Act targets those who own semi-automatic rifles or modern, sporting guns. “The total number of homicides committed with any type of rifle in New York state was five – and that’s not even talking about semi-automatic weapons,” he said. “That’s any type of rifle. So, there’s no justification for the assault weapons ban. There are so many technical flaws in this bill that it should be repealed immediately.”

According to Alstat, as of March 15, a new crime has been created, in penal code 265.01B, “criminal possession of a firearm.” “You’re guilty of this, if you are a person who possesses a firearm,” he said. “The penal code 265 has exemptions for the crimes of possessing a firearm: for example, if you’re law enforcement or if you have a pistol license. But, when they added it in this new line, they didn’t make any exemptions in it. So, as it stands now, come March 15, everyone in New York state, including law enforcement and people with pistol licenses, are going to be guilty of criminal possession of a firearm. So, I’d just like to ask this board to pass the resolution, asking for the repeal of this law.”

Boston residents Linda Kaczca and Tom Winters also spoke, in favor of the resolution. “Our Second Amendment rights have been trampled on and, if you make the governor angry enough, he may take away our First Amendment rights, the right to meet,” Kaczca said. “I mean, what’s stopping him?”

Winters said, “Our Second Amendment rights, along with our first, fourth, fifth and all the rest, they’re not up for discussion and they’re not up for debate, not by Gov. Cuomo or anyone else. So, thank you for putting that forward and I urge you to pass it.”

Boardway moved to approve Resolution 2013-06, which asked for the amendment of the NY SAFE Act. The resolution said that the act “was rushed through the Senate and Assembly, without a single public hearing or input from the various law enforcement agencies, located around our state and ... even the state lawmakers did not have time to review the bill, as presented, leaving questions about implementation and regulation of this new law.”

The resolution also said that the SAFE Act “should focus on increasing penalties for criminals who use firearms to harm and threaten law-abiding citizens and address the issues of mental illness related to violence.”

The board resolved to “urgently ask [Cuomo] and the legislative leaders to suspend this law as soon as possible and to look at all the aspects of gun control, using the proper legal procedure to bring about a law that will address gun control in a more logical manner, focusing on the real issue related to gun control. A law that will strengthen the effect on public safety and not infringe upon our constitutional rights.”

This resolution will be forwarded to Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, Majority Leader of the Independent Democratic Caucus Jeff Klein, Senate Minority Leader John Sampson, Speaker of the Assembly Sheldon Silver, Leader of the Assembly Ron Canestrari, Minority Leader of the Assembly Brian Kolb and the Western New York delegation and Erie County legislators.

Boardway said, “There’s been some litigation, in preliminary stages, around the state, with the support of actually most municipalities in the state [and] the majority of counties in the state. Sheriffs’ departments have jumped in on this thing. Just this past Friday, March 1, 2013, [a NYS] supreme court judge downstate did, in fact, direct the state itself, Gov. Cuomo personally and his people, to prove why they felt this ‘message of necessity’ in that law was necessary. They have until March 11 to do that. So, this is going to be an ongoing process. The grassroots is what really will get this thing going, people here at our level, and let it go uphill instead of downhill, for a change.”

In another matter, Local resident Rich Hawkins spoke to the board about the bridge on Hillcroft Drive. While Hawkins said that work done on that bridge was scheduled to be completed some time ago, “because of all the flood damage and everything else and the trees coming down and hitting that bridge and turning it, causing severe problems. They were supposed to resurvey that, I thought, around 2011, and possibly do a replacement of that bridge, in 2012. It’s now 2013, and I’m just asking if anything is being done, about that situation.”

Councilman Larry Murtha said that members of the board toured that bridge, as one of their tour spots last week, “and [Supervisor] Marty [Ballowe] took us under the bridge. It looks like, to me, the abutments are cracked and some of the buttresses are bent and, from what I understand, the money that was scheduled to get that done was diverted to another town, so now we’re without anything. So, we’re trying to get some assistance from Legislator [John] Mills to get that job done, because there’s a litigation probability there. So, we’re working on that without argument, to get that done quickly.”

The bridge was built in 1935, according to Ballowe. “They took it off again for 2013,” he said. “It seems our town has a problem with getting money from legislators, in our county. From snowplowing on our roads, to getting bridges fixed, to getting trees cut back off of roads. The more noise that our town makes, I think it’s only beneficial to us. It seems like, if we were a bigger town, as Amherst, they have no problem fixing the roads and doing things who get about 6 inches of snow a year, to our 60 inches of snow a year and get the damage of the flooding of our bridges and everything else.”

Boardway said, “That bridge is going to fall into the creek. People are going to get hurt. This town’s going to get sued.

“There’s interesting politics going on in the county that have to do with why that came off the list, this year,” he added. “Allegedly, the county executive decided to remove $9 million of infrastructure funds primarily from districts represented by Republicans. Now, there’s going to be some legislature stuff going on tomorrow at the Erie County Legislature, on that issue, so maybe check that out. But I hear that’s where we might want to send our concerns about that $9 million disappearing out of the approved money that should have gotten that bridge fixed for us.”

In other board matters:

– The board moved to establish a new speed limit for Boston State Road and said that it “has been made aware of the traffic safety concerns of its residents, with respect to the section of Boston State Road, between the intersections of Boston State Road and Zimmerman/Herman Hill and 7550 Boston State Road.”

The board has suggested a speed limit of 35 mph, but added that such an act fell outside the jurisdiction of the town of Boston, so the board requested that a traffic speed and safety study be done on that road.

– The board also passed a resolution regarding Cuomo’s proposal to increase fines and allow fewer plea deals for traffic violations. By unanimous vote, the board “[opposed Cuomo’s] proposal to increase traffic fines upon our citizens and further [opposed] the state of New York’s attempt to take the portion of the fines which are currently retained by the municipalities.”

– The board approved the 2012 service award program points for the Boston Emergency Squad.

– The board accepted a $5,350 bid from Pat White “for redoing the highway department building,” which will include replacing all the ceilings and drop ceilings and all ventilation drop work, according to Ballowe.

– Dennis Mead’s request to be reappointed as a member and chairman of the Boston Zoning Board of Appeals was approved. His term will expire on April 1, 2018.

– “We have a project ongoing here on Keller Road,” Councilman Jeff Genzel reported. “The shop drawings and everything have been approved by the Erie County Water Authority. The contractor’s waiting for five days of good weather, to get underneath that pipeline, off of Keller Road. So, we’re looking at probably here getting it done, in the next few weeks.”

– Genzel also reported that Town Engineer Jim Hannon received engineering drawings from Dana Darling, the developer for the patio homes on Deanna Drive. “[Hannon] will begin review on that project,” Genzel said.

– In his report, Ballowe said, “The 2012 annual financial report was recently filed with the office of the state comptrollers. The report is available at the town clerk’s office. I’m happy to say that the report demonstrates a favorable, sound financial ground that our town is in. This administration can take credit for good government decisions. We have taken advantage of favorable interest rates by refinancing our short-term loans and locking in long-term rates and eliminating annual legal fees and refinancing fees that we paid every year for these loans.

“We have also utilized some of our excess reserves, in order to pay down debt in our town, saving hundreds of thousands of dollars in interest, for future generations in this town,” he added. “So, we’re looking beyond just what we did here and one good example is the troopers barracks. With the money that we have saved in the town, over the past few years, we’ve paid $280,000 down on it and locked it in at a long-term loan, which is favorable for the town.”

Ballowe said that the board has lowered Boston residents’ town taxes, three years in a row. “That was $120,000 savings alone, over three years.”

Ballowe said that it is important to maintain adequate unreserved funds, to prepare for unexpected rises in state mandates, “which everybody can see in the resolutions we talked about, tonight. This is a responsible way to run the government and we feel the path is correct.”

The board did a bond rating for Boston to go into long-term loans, “and our town received the highest rating you can receive. And what that did was made our long-term loans at 1.9 percent,” Ballowe added.

The next Boston Town Board meeting is scheduled to be held at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 20 at the Boston Town Hall.

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