Board seeks fireworks donations
By Joshua Maloni
At Monday's Village of Lewiston government meeting, resident Diana Lewandowski asked trustees to reconsider the municipality's kayak docking fee - and she brought backup. In just about two weeks, more than 300 people have signed her online petition.
"Last year, when my husband and I went kayaking, we discovered that they were charging $8 for a kayak," she said. "One of the reasons why we bought our kayaks is because it's free to do."
"I was absolutely shocked at the $8 fee," Lewandowski added. "To me, it's just unheard of. Wherever we go, it's either free or it's $2."
She bumped into a group of kayakers who were equally distressed at the fee.
"I ran into a group of 12 people," Lewandowski said. "That 12 people had to pay $96 to go kayaking that day. That, to me, is just crazy. The group would come at least a few times a year, have breakfast somewhere in Lewiston, paddle down to Youngstown. Then they'd do some shopping at the local stores, then have a nice dinner.
"Let's do the math on that: Breakfast for 12 people at only $8 apiece, that's $96. Dinner with drinks for 12 people, approximately - on the low side - $20. That equals $240. Shopping at local shops and stores, who knows what that amount could be?
"After they had to pay the fee, they said they would never come back. They said, 'We'll spend our money elsewhere.' "
The Village Board recently reduced the kayak fee to $4. Still, "the majority of 305 people that signed my petition strongly feel it should be free," Lewandowski said.
"We hear you loud and clear," Mayor Terry Collesano said. "As I said when the press approached me, we were going on the recommendation of our harbormaster. Now, we're not down there day in and day out the way he is, so we have to rely on what the harbormaster tells us.
"We were concerned. We did get complaints about the amount. So we went back and re-evaluated the situation. We did lower it to $4. We heard nothing more after the $4. We figured that resolved the problem, until we started to hear from you people again - which is good; we like to hear from our residents."
Collesano said the harbormaster, John Ritter, "still has some reservations."
"We would like to wait until he gets back from vacation, which is soon, as I understand it, sit down with him and go over this again," Collesano said. "We will go back to it and look at it again after we confer with him."
"I commend you for the work and the effort that you put in here," Trustee Vic Eydt told Lewandowski. "Like the mayor said, you know, we were only just going on suggestions and what we were told at the time."
"There is a cost for everybody to use (the docks)," he added. "We don't know what we're going to do yet. (But) we're going to take some of your recommendations, I'm sure."
Lewandowski suggested the board approve a resident card.
"There's a lot of things we can do, and we want to go and review them all," Deputy Mayor Bruce Sutherland said.
He told Lewandowski it was a group of 20-25 kayakers appearing and offering lessons - seemingly tying up the docks - that led to the $8 fee idea.
"I think that's what kind of kicked this off a little bit," Sutherland said. "But maybe there is a commercial fee? Maybe there's something (we can do for residents)? There's a lot of things we can do, and we're going to look at them all."
Carl Lewis of Buffalo Outdoors Meetup said he represents the interests of 1,600 outdoorsmen, including 650 kayakers. He told the board, "The resident permit sounds like a fine idea."
"I personally don't see anything wrong with charging an outside source a nominal fee for coming on board," Lewis added, but said it should be less than $4.
Sutherland said the board is considering the future addition of a north end dock with steps for kayakers.
Lewandowski said that would be a safer launch point.
Moreover, she said it takes a kayak about one-tenth the time it takes a boat to get into the water.
"When we go down to the launch, we are not in the way of the launch when we're preparing to go," she said. "We're not in the launch zone. We only need a few minutes to put our kayaks in the water, hop in and push off.
"Please consider that kayaks and canoes only hold one or two people, so your fee is most likely per person."
Trustees approved a motion to pay Skylighters of Western New York $8,330 for a 20-minute Fourth of July fireworks presentation.
Village Clerk/Treasurer Amy Salada informed the board a little more than $4,000 has been collected, $2,000 of which came from the Town of Lewiston, and $1,000 from the Lewiston Kiwanis Club.
"We're about halfway there," Salada said. "Any donation is gratefully accepted."
Trustees are asking for donations from village businesses and residents to help offset the remaining costs.
In recent years, other River Region municipalities split the fireworks bill. In 2014, however, the Town of Porter board decided to not provide any fireworks funding.
Happy birthday to all
Collesano's friends recently threw a birthday party for him. In lieu of presents, $2,500 was raised for village beautification projects.