by Terry Duffy
Support continues to build with favorable news heard on the proposed Town of Lewiston Civic Center.
Monday's Lewiston Town Board meeting saw continuing enthusiasm and support by the Lewiston-Porter community and beyond, as the second of the town's "information sessions" on the complex eyed for the front of Lewiston-Porter High School took place at Town Hall. More than 20 spoke and support was heard from a wide range of interests. Included were representatives of area youth soccer groups, local business interests, Niagara University men's basketball coach Joe Mihalich, former NU basketball coach and current Toronto Raptors broadcaster Jack Armstrong, members of the building trades, numerous Lewiston-Porter student-athletes and coaches, representatives from Grand Island youth lacrosse and soccer organizations, Lew-Port Youth Football coaches, Lewiston area seniors, plus residents from Buffalo and the Wheatfield area and more.
As was the case in the first session, just about all who appeared before Supervisor Steve Reiter and the Town Board conveyed their strong backing for the Civic Center and its merits. And pledges of financial and corporate support were also heard. One came from William Westadt, board member with Niagara Pioneer Youth Soccer, who pledged $30,000 from the youth soccer organization toward the purchase of equipment and nets for the center, with future support promised to the town. Another came via Ron LaDuca, Civic Center committee member, who informed the board of an interest of corporate support for the center conveyed to him from an unnamed individual associated with Venture Forthe Inc. of Niagara Falls.
"It's encouraging to see positive support for the Civic Center," commented Councilman Ernie Palmer. "It appears this community wants it."
Reiter and board members also appeared to be listening to the interests of other stakeholders - Lewiston's seniors. Comments were heard from Lewiston Senior Center members, who again conveyed to the board their wishes to remain right where they are - at their current location on Lower River and Pletcher roads. "Look, seniors support the recreation center," said Seneca Street resident Terri Jones. "But we are not in favor of blending the Senior Center with the Lewiston Civic Center."
Jones told the board that a recent poll of Lewiston Senior Center members revealed 95 percent are not in favor of the move. She said a petition showed that 105 members had signed on as being against the move. All preferred to have the town work on expanding and doing continued maintenance and improvements at the center.
Other center members that night spoke of the "pleasant atmosphere" they enjoy at the current location, and told Reiter and board members that Lewiston's seniors "don't really need it" or "want it," in response to any talk on their moving.
Resident Paulette Glasgow reiterated those feelings in her remarks, and again asked the board to consider a referendum "to gauge support for the center."
"Why are you so reluctant on having referendum?" Glasgow asked.
In response Reiter said the town would be modifying its plans for the center. "We have listened to the seniors," said Reiter. We have decided against "building to earlier plans."
Reiter told attendees Monday that instead the town would maintain the current Senior Center, do the needed improvements to the roof, air conditioning, etc., and make the new Civic Center available to seniors as their needs dictate. "We have listened; we will make the appropriate steps."
Later on, Reiter expanded on the town's new direction. He said the senior center roof and other needs would be addressed as needed, and the Civic Center plans would be adjusted to reflect the removal of the Senior Center. He forecasted a new price tag of $8 million for the center, down from $9 million earlier, but said nonetheless the new facility's size would remain the same with recreation seeing "expanded use" as a result of the plan's changes. "The project has been scaled down," said Reiter. "There will be senior center improvements, but seniors will still be able to utilize the (Civic) center if they wish."
Regarding any calls for a referendum, Reiter and board members said that such an action would be up to town residents to pursue on their own. "If the community wants a public referendum they can have one," said Councilman Ron Winkley. "There's a process they can do."
In other news on the Civic Center this week:
The Niagara River Greenway Commission announced Tuesday that the public comment period has opened for Greenway's 33rd round of projects. Included for consistency review is a submission for the Town of Lewiston Civic Center and one from the Lewiston-Porter School District for the Lewiston-Porter Recreational Center Complex Phase II.
Lewiston's submission for the Civic Center project totals $9.2 million in requested Greenway funding, with the earlier particulars for the senior center still included. In its application language to Greenway, the town requests that Greenway money approved earlier for Joseph Davis State Park improvements be reallocated to the Civic Center project. "The past awarded Greenway funds, which was to be used for the Joseph Davis State Park Phase I Capital Improvement Project, would like to be formally reallocated to fund the creation of the Town of Lewiston Civic Center," the town wrote in its Greenway application.
A separate submission from the Lewiston-Porter School District totals $6.2 million in requested Greenway funding and is intended to cover "... a compilation of recreational, cultural, programming and administrative improvements at the Lew-Port High School, Middle, and Elementary schools," according to Lew-Port's application language.
The Lew-Port request is not part of the town's application to Greenway for the Civic Center.
Greenway reported that details on these and other project submissions are now posted on the Greenway website, www.niagaragreenway.org. The public comment period is now under way and will remain open with comments accepted until Tuesday, April 30. Comments may be submitted either at the website or by hard copy to the commission at 2136 West Oakfield Road, Grand Island, New York 14072.
Once the public comment period has ended, the Niagara River Greenway Commission will review projects and on Tuesday, May 21, vote on the consistency of the projects in relation to the objectives of the Niagara River Greenway Plan.
In other news from Monday's board session:
•Robert Lannon of CRA Infrastructure and Engineering, who has been doing consulting work with the town on the Joseph Davis Park boat launch project proposal, reported on updates. Lannon requested that two resolutions be approved, one for town lead agency status and another for a positive declaration on the project. Both were approved by the board.
Lannon also reported that a draft scoping document is now available for public review, on the town website at www.townoflewiston.us, with hard copies available for review at the Lewiston Senior Center and the Lewiston Public Library.
The board also approved the scheduling of a public information meeting/scoping session on the boat launch for Monday, April 8, at 5:30 p.m. at Town Hall.
•Reiter reported that town water customers would soon be seeing a $20 reduction in their water bills. The change reflects new state Power Authority discounts to the town and removal of the town's older surplus power discount arrangement with National Grid, since expired. Reiter said he was negotiating with NYPA to extend the water discount offering to Village of Lewiston customers.
•Town Councilman Mike Marra requested a public hearing be scheduled to consider changes to the town's local law covering placement of signs. Changes would be considered to allow for non-profits to advertise events. A public hearing on the matter was scheduled for Monday, April 22, at 5:45 p.m.