CHEEKTOWAGA, NY - It's a red hovercraft which has more or less been a white elephant for the Town of Cheektowaga since it was purchased new seven years ago for $70,000.
Since then...it has sat mostly at the town highway garage, never used.
According to Town Highway Superintendent Mark Wegner, the idea behind the purchase back in 2011 was to use the hovercraft to help clear tree limbs and debris from areas along creeks prone to flooding in the spring. Wegner who not at tonight's meeting pushed the nearly 70 - thousand dollar purchase back then and Councilman James Rogowski voted in favor back then "The highway superintendent when he approached the board then - told the board that it would be used to clean out the creekbeds and...if it saved a life...one life it was worth it. Back then, when I asked a department head something about an idea and they controlled the department, I have to believe in that department head and I believed in what Mr. Wegner said at that time."
But not all that long after buying it, according to Wegner, the town learned the DEC wouldn't let them use it, unless it went to the costly extra measure of installing ramps for it to access the water…the design and construction of which would make using the hovercraft cost prohibitive.
Now another current council member is not quite so forgiving. 2 On Your Side asked Councilman Jerry Kaminski "The superintendent is not here to answer for himself...but does it raise judgement questions for you? Kaminski replied : Absolutely...absolutely. I've been in business...since 1970. If I ever purchased something like that in my business and lost 50 - thousand dollars I would have been gone years and years ago."
The town has tried on prior occasions to peddle the hovercraft.
It was put up as part of a surplus equipment auction in 2014, but it only attracted a bid of $11,000 - which the town thought was less than reasonable, so it kept it.
The town board voted to approve a resolution Tuesday evening to accept a bid by an Illinois watercraft dealer offering $20,000.
And there was a suggestion from a resident for that soon to be recovered 20 - thousand dollars. She told Council members "I'd like to take something that may have been a bad decision and turn it into something good...again I want to see that go to the youth and rec department."
Under town budget law, the money must go back to the highway department this year but next year council could make changes and follow that suggestion according to Rogowski. "Let's use that money to build our future...our kids...and use that as part of our youth and recreation somewhere."