by Terry Duffy
With momentum building toward next Tuesday's Niagara Greenway Commission public meeting/review/vote to determine consistency and funding for the proposed Lewiston Civic Center, the Town Board has taken further steps to make the project a reality.
At its Monday work session, the Lewiston Town Board voted in favor of three items pertaining to the Civic Center.
First, it approved a land sale contract with the Lewiston-Porter School District. The town will pay Lew-Port $50,000 for a 10-acre parcel of land situated on Creek Road and Daryl Johnson Way, in front of the high school. This would be the site for the new facility.
Next, it approved up to $8 million in bond anticipation notes to be issued by the town, payable over a period of 30 years, to finance the project. The town would proceed with a sale of serial bonds, delegated by Supervisor Steve Reiter, for the purpose of financing the principals of land acquisition, construction and other costs associated with the Civic Center.
And then the board set the stage for all this to happen by unanimously approving a resolution for a referendum vote to decide the future of the whole matter. A special election, open to Town of Lewiston voters only, will take place Monday, July 15, from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. at Town Hall.
Reiter and councilmen Al Bax and Mike Marra all voted in favor of the resolutions. Councilmen Ron Winkley and Ernie Palmer were absent.
All in attendance Monday strongly expressed their sentiment that a referendum vote of town residents was the way to go to ultimately decide the matter.
"This is a big step for us," Reiter said. "We're putting a lot of resources out there. I think it is justified that the community has an opportunity to express their opinion."
"We (the Town Board) want to make sure we're on firm ground with the residents, and I think (it's) the only way we can" do this, he added.
Marra commented, "We're spending a considerable amount of money, a considerable amount of time. There are other things we could be using Greenway money for. As many supporters that we've had out there in public, even the naysayers were in support of it so long as we met certain criteria. I think that it's very important the people who couldn't make it to the forefront (by attending Civic Center information sessions) show up and be able to speak their minds."
Bax added, "(With $8 million), this vote makes perfect sense."
Payback of the bond notes is anticipated to be financed via Greenway funding, but the resolution approved Monday also includes language referring to a "levy on real taxable property" in the town to pay off the debt. On this, Reiter, board members and, particularly, Town Attorney Mike Dowd, all made it a point to stress that Greenway funding would be the only source to pay off the bonds and Lewiston property owners would be facing no tax levy liability whatsoever.
"The document says there will be a levy on taxable real property. There is no levy," Dowd said. "It just needs to be in there. Greenway funds and revenue for the project will cover everything."
"This (language pertaining to a levy on taxable property) is a worse-case scenario," Reiter said.
Bax added, "If there's no money available, we're not building it."
Reiter closed his discussion on the positive, both on the efforts of the volunteer committee to engage and build community support, and for the Town Board's work over past months to make the Civic Center a reality.
Of the committee's past work to engage the community, Reiter commented, "Was it orchestrated? Of course it was. They (the committee) went out and got their supporters to make sure they all got here. Let's be honest."
On the Civic Center itself, "We're going to do a good job on this," Reiter said. "We're going to make it one of the premier spots in the town. I know these guys (the committee and Town Board members) have worked hard on this. It will be a real asset to our community."
The May 21 Niagara River Greenway Commission general meeting to determine consistency and funding for the Civic Center gets underway at 3 p.m. at the Beaver Island State Park Clubhouse on Grand Island. It is open to the public.