By Jann Wiswall

The Town of Ellicottville’s board held a special meeting on Friday, May 1 to discuss its role in a grant application for federal funds to build a portion of the Ellicottville-Great Valley Recreational Trail.

Under the terms of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant, the Trail Board must identify a local entity that will serve as the project’s sponsor and commit to providing 20 percent of the funding total over a period of five years.

Members of the Trail’s board of directors attended the meeting to ask the town board to serve as that entity.

The town board has sponsored two other grant applications over the past two years (which were not funded) and has funds earmarked in its current budget for this purpose. While the town would be the responsible funding party, the trail board fully expects to be able to reimburse the town for the local share through its own fundraising.

Essentially, “the town would serve as the insurance policy behind the local share,” said town board member Steve Crowley.

Trail board member Mark Alianello noted that the trail board and committee expect to be able to announce that they have hired a professional fundraiser soon (see Trail story, cover). Assuming that occurs, that individual will be asked to attend the next regular board meeting on May 20 to make a presentation about the grant application’s scope. During that meeting, the board will make its final decision about whether or not to commit to serving as the funding entity.

In the interim, the board approved the trail’s request to submit pre-application forms by May 5 in advance of the full-grant submission, which is due June 5.  Trail board member Kate O’Stricker will complete the pre-application document.

In other business, Town Supervisor John Burrell announced that Ellicottville Judge John Nelson had resigned. By state law, judges who are also attorneys are not permitted to present cases before other lawyer-judges. Nelson found that the role of judge was placing too much of a burden on his legal business in several area municipalities that also have lawyer-judges.

Ellicottville’s other judge, Andy Stokes, has agreed to take over Nelson’s court temporarily, but also offered to take the position permanently as the town’s only judge if the board concurred.

As Burrell explained, the board had two choices: 1) Take Stokes up on his offer to be Ellicottville’s sole judge; or 2) appoint an interim judge who would then have the option to run for the permanent post during the November 2015 election.

Burrell said that former Ellicottville Judge John Karassik has expressed interest in taking the interim position.

The board felt that, because there has been turnover in the court and there are occasions when judges are unavailable for arraignments, it serves the community better to have two judges. Hence, the board agreed to appoint Karassik to the interim role.

Because Karassik will need to attend training before taking the bench, Ellicottville Court Clerk Denise Richards, who is a justice in Machias, will be available to handle some arraignments when necessary in that town.

Finally, the board approved plans to repair Sommerville Valley Rd. between Jed Ln. and the town line. The repairs, which include replacing a culvert at Witch Hollow Rd., will begin as soon as possible and should be completed by the end of June. Drivers should be prepared for periodic lane closures and/or detours during construction.