2016—year in review, 2017—continuing the path
By Nate McMurray
Supervisor Grand Island
Roundabout: I spent the first month in office working to keep a campaign promise by literally sitting in the waiting room until the DOT agreed to commit to a new landscaping plan for the roundabout (adding rock and 14 White Oak trees to line both sides of the off-ramp). It’s not perfect, but it’s a start. Next year, I hope to add a classic sign and lighting to make that a welcoming corridor for our main street.
Police: There was a lot of rancor over the proposed installation of a police “chief” position and the unintended consequences that might have—namely, cost. We avoided that change and instead negotiated a modest raise for all of our officers. We have also required the police to add white decals to the black-on-black patrol vehicles so they are more readily visible.
Three thorny left overs: There were three thorny issues I walked into as a new Supervisor that were left over from the past: trapping, vacation homes, and agricultural disputes. We now have a trapping law that is not what I wanted, but goes a long a way to preventing trapping on public land. The Agricultural issue had an even better resolution—read below. The law regulating vacation homes, however, sadly died because one councilman (who ran saying he would support property rights and save tax payer money) refused to vote. But choosing not to decide is still a choice. And that choice has forced vacation homes to go underground— check out Craig’s list. We need a proper resolution.
West River Connector Trail: We all know this was a fight. But it was a fight worth having. Design is well under way, and I’m certain there will be no shortage of politicians lining up in 2018 to cut the ribbon for our new path. The best part of this for me was the unexpected support I received, including support from my fellow council members when it mattered most. I have a whole group of new friends that I would have never met had that debate not occurred. Thank you all! I remain amazed and grateful. Hopefully, citizens on both sides of the debate will eventually celebrate this unprecedented investment that will ensure West River is a protected recreational safe haven for generations to come.
Scenic Woods: Scenic Woods Project (developing recreational paths on the hundreds of acres of town-owned space behind the high school) has been in the works for years. But that was the problem. When I came into office I was informed that we would lose the grant money for lack of follow-up. After much effort, we are hopefully back in the good graces of the Greenway team, and will again secure (and start) the project in 2017.
Grant efforts: We applied for grants to do a number of things: 1. Secure funds to update the Waterfront Revitalization Plan and Master Plan, 2. Secure funds for pedestrian access from Webb Road to Fantasy Island and build the heart of our mains street, and 3. Secure funds to build an elevator at town hall for handicapped access to the Court Room—fingers crossed!
Term limits: Yes, I pushed for and we have term limits on Grand Island. Like me or hate me, there will never be a Supervisor McMurray for 20 years. No new leader will ever be able to hold their post for more than 8 years. Frankly, I’d like to expand the law even further to non-policy positions. This ends giant pensions and stagnant leadership forever.
Agriculture: When I came into office we were spending money on legal efforts to stop citizens from designating their property as an Agricultural District. I was told that if we did not do so we would have chickens in the streets. But I said plainly, “I support this movement.” Why? Because I met with the applicants, and I knew it was within their right to apply. This has led to a Farmer’s Market movement that is beyond my original hope for a market at the Town Hall Commons. We have vendors and farmers of all sorts thriving. There will be hiccups, but I will continue to support agriculture on Grand Island, including applying for a grant to update our Town laws to support farming.
Transparency: I don’t care how you spin it; our town government is more transparent than ever. Our meetings are often full. Our debates are robust, and all of it happens under the glaring scrutiny of the public, on camera! I’m proud of that. Heck, you can watch every meeting at GrandIslandNews.com. I promised sunshine would change Town Hall, and it has.
2017—continuing the path
Master Plan: The plan is progressing. We will finish it in 2017. It will legally preserve green space, control growth, and encourage entrepreneurship. We also need it for many grant applications that we will pursue.
Dunlop Building: For the first time in decades, there are lights on in the old Dunlop Building. I ran on a promise of getting it torn down or getting it open. And I’m feeling ever more confident that I will be able to say that we have kept that promise in 2017. Make no mistake, it was not easy and it’s still not a done deal. But we have been working hand in hand with the developers and now there is more than just vain hope.
Broadband Feasibility Study: Can we have broadband on Grand Island for our schools and for our municipal infrastructure? We will know soon, because we had the guts to approve a feasibility study. If the numbers work, I will push for a municipal infrastructure plan that will bring Grand Island to the leading edge for technology in this area.
Solar: Our new law is in the works. It will become a model for the area and accommodate solar energy in the area. And just in time. We have a major solar project in the works that will set us apart as a forward-thinking, sustainable community.
Festival Culture: Gusmacker was great. Light up the Blvd was better than ever (I suggested we make it more of Christmas costume party next year), Taste of Grand Island had a great year, and hopefully coming soon will be River Fest! Plus, I have to say I have never seen so many Grand Island themed t-shirts and nick-knacks in my life for sale! #bgrand Shout out to everythinggrandisland.com for leading the way!
Tolls: You know where I stand on this. The tolls tax every aspect of Island life. But without you, nothing will change. Please stop just complaining about empty buildings and our need for a new supermarket and sign the petition at www.teardownthegrandislandtolls.com.
Ferry: Before the bridges, there were Ferries. Well, everything old is new again. I have begun discussions with the Town of Tonawanda and the City of Tonawanda to start a Ferry service. We want to create a Ferry system connecting bikers, hikers, bird watchers, and families to the Radisson (or nearby). Stay tuned!
Crime: We have terribly high domestic violence rates and heroin use here on GI. We must do more. In 2017 we will investigate different ways to improve these issues that are happening right here in our own backyard.
Trees: We are a community that is losing trees because of disease. We need to replace those trees. We have created a committee who is working on a plan for dealing with this issue.
Sidewalk Plan: We are working on a comprehensive sidewalk plan to identify and address missing sidewalks in subdivisions, without the shock and awe of impromptu Town Hall construction. No one should be stuck with a $10,000 bill for a sidewalk out of nowhere. But at the same time, no child should be put in danger because they have no safe pathway to walk. Plus, we need to find creative solutions to fix the East River Road pedestrian issues and the issues at Ransom and Stony Point.
Community Center: It’s in the works! Let’s make sure we get it done! My wish is that it’s a centerpiece for enhancing our main street, along with the new gateway, the Farmer’s Market, Kelly’s, and the new Deglopper Memorial that’s in development.