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Village of Lewiston votes to accept Gary Hall's recreation center

by jmaloni
Tue, Dec 20th 2011 07:00 am
A sketch of the proposed Village of Lewiston recreation center. (photo courtesy of Giusiana Architects & Engineer)
A sketch of the proposed Village of Lewiston recreation center. (photo courtesy of Giusiana Architects & Engineer)

by Joshua Maloni

The Village of Lewiston accepted Waste Technology Services President and CEO Gary Hall's gift of a new, $2 million recreation center at Monday's monthly board meeting.

Now the question is where to put it.

Mayor Terry Collesano told those in attendance that the board was voting on the "concept" of a recreation center in the village, and not on a location.

"We haven't figured that out yet," he said.

Last month, Hall presented a plan to build a two-level, indoor tennis and recreation center behind the Red Brick (in Marilyn Toohey Park). He spoke before trustees and a full boardroom of people, most of whom voiced their approval of the idea, but not of the location.

At the time, Collesano said an alternative location would be sought. Hall agreed, and said he didn't want to anger residents living in the Onondaga/North Fourth to North Second streets corridor.

On Monday, Hall said, "I'm still interested in doing it." However, since that first meeting, "A number of other options have become available," he said, noting the Town of Lewiston, Mount St. Mary's Hospital and Health Center and Niagara University all have approached him. Each of the three would like to have a new recreation facility.

Attorney Edward Jesella said trustees were voting to keep the project in the village.

"There's a number of people that would like to have this recreation center," he said. "We're not here to put this in stone. ... We just don't want to lose it or lose the possibility of having it."

"It's a great idea and a good thing. We just have to figure where we're going to plug it in," Jesella said.

Trustees approved the "concept," and voted 3-1 to accept the gift. Collesano said both sides -- the village and Hall -- could pull out if terms and conditions (or locations) are not acceptable.

"There's many reasons that we could either cancel or accept" the recreation center, the mayor said.

Collesano, who has suggested the Artpark-area plateau as a second option for the rec. center, told Hall, "We are very cautiously optimistic that this is going to go through. We want to work with you."

Trustee Terri Mudd voted "no," saying she hasn't heard from any residents in favor of adding a rec. center to the village.

Resident Frank Scelsa asked trustees if they had the village's best interest in mind. He wondered aloud why so few came out to support the project at the two meetings.

Trustee Ernie Krell said a rec. center "would be another asset for the village. I can't believe people are against an asset."

Deputy Mayor Bruce Sutherland said he's heard many residents voice their approval of a rec. center. In fact, when the village asked Hall to consider moving the project, Sutherland said he "heard from many people that, 'I can't believe you don't want a recreation center in the village.' "

Despite their vote, trustees still intend to hold a public forum on the rec. center. Residents are invited to voice their opinion at 6 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 9, 2012. The meeting will be held in the Red Brick gymnasium.

Collesano asked Hall to provide a business plan ahead of that meeting.

News and Notes

•The board approved a facility contract for the Lewiston Council on the Arts to close Center Street on Aug. 11 and 12, 2012, for the 46th annual Lewiston Art Festival. The roadway will be closed from Fourth to Eighth streets beginning at 5 a.m. on Saturday. Center Street will reopen on Sunday following the end of the festival.

Also closed for the event: Fifth Street, from the First Niagara Bank drive-thru to the KeyBank drive-thru; and Niagara Street, from Center to Plain streets.

•Trustees approved a motion granting John Kinney and Whirlpool Jet Boat Tours permission to relocate the former Village Inn at 65 Center St. Click here for more information.

•Village of Lewiston Police Commissioner Al Soluri said the board should ask Artpark & Co. to contribute more than $6,000 to the Lewiston Police Department budget. He said last summer's payment is "peanuts" compared to what residents pay in taxes. Soluri estimates Artpark event-related police coverage accounts for about 10 percent -- around $100,000 -- of the yearly police budget.

"We can't afford the amount we're paying here," Soluri said.

The Village of Lewiston and the Town of Lewiston are currently working on a new police contract. The LPD has been without a long-term deal since 2008.  

•Prior to the meeting, Collesano called for a moment of silence for Marnie Eydt, the wife of trustee Vic Eydt, who passed away unexpectedly very early Sunday morning. The mayor said Marnie was "loved by all of us on the board and the girls in the office."

Click here for the obituary and calling hours.

Vic Eydt was not in attendance.

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