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Full house discusses Depew dissolution

WBFO's Mike Desmond

It was standing room only at Depew High School Thursday night. Residents came to a community meeting for answers to the question: What happens if they vote to dissolve the village? Answer: It will not be simple.

The Village Board has to set a date in January for a referendum on the community's future. State Conference of Mayors General Counsel Wade Beltramo says that is one of the few certain things in the entire discussion. After that, it depends on what the voters in Depew decide.

If they vote against dissolution, there cannot be another try for four years. If dissolution is approved, it becomes a passage through foggy waters, unless voters change their minds in another vote.

Beltramo says residents have to pick apart every aspect of what the village does now, citing police as an example.

"It's just not a matter of having police. It's what? Response time. Right?"Beltramo asked the crowd, who responded with loud applause. "It's response time. It's patrol, the number of people on patrol at any given time. You have to think about those things. You can't just say, 'We'll have police if the village dissolves.' It's like, 'Well, what's the service going to be.'"

Aleks Wojciechowica continued that thought, saying he favors keeping the village.

Credit WBFO's Mike Desmond
It was standing room only at a community about dissolving the Village of Depew.

"We have the absolute best services and that's not something I would want to get rid of," says Wojciechowica. "Just as you've seen an example that happened here. A female felt real dizzy. Firemen, police, medics were all on location, ready to take care of him. If we had gotten rid of the village, you'd have to wait for something to come from the town line or from who knows where."

Beltramo says this dissolution process is more complicated than most because the village straddles Cheektowaga and Lancaster and each town might handle the situation differently - which it is entitled to do.

In addition, savings from dissolving the village are not clear because of outstanding village loans that will have to be paid back. They would be paid by residents within the the current boundaries of Depew, even if the village no longer exists.

Mike Desmond is one of Western New York’s most experienced reporters, having spent nearly a half-century covering the region for newspapers, television stations and public radio. He has been with WBFO and its predecessor, WNED-AM, since 1988. As a reporter for WBFO, he has covered literally thousands of stories involving education, science, business, the environment and many other issues. Mike has been a long-time theater reviewer for a variety of publications and was formerly a part-time reporter for The New York Times.