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Town of Lewiston: Board hears Joe Davis Park improvement funding idea

by jmaloni
Fri, Aug 26th 2011 11:00 pm

by Terry Duffy

Lewiston Town Board members discussed but took no action on a couple of ideas presented by Supervisor Steve Reiter at Monday's session, one of which could possibly impact town finances.

Reiter presented a proposition where the town would provide a funding resource of $400,000 annually in applied-for Greenway monies to a group known as the Joseph Davis State Park Local Development Corporation.

Comprised of both local and out-of-town participants, JDSPLDC was incorporated in April following finalization of the 10-year contract between the town and the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation to operate Joe Davis. The group, which has a $250,000 operating budget provided for by the town, is listed on a Google search as "Investment and Holding Companies, Investment companies, investment counselors and consultants, and investment holding companies."

JDSPLDC has been charged by Reiter to facilitate a smorgasbord of capital improvement projects the town is now considering for Joe Davis. Reiter revealed Monday the town is eyeing up to "$5 to $6 million" in improvements for JDSP.

Mentioned were a boat launch facility plus a nature center project, with funding to come from Greenway money. That funding source is not guaranteed, however.

As part of its benefits structure to a limited number of "host communities" in Erie and Niagara counties from the 2007 state Power Authority relicensing settlement, locally the Town of Lewiston and the Lew-Port School District are eligible for an estimated $500,000 annually in Greenway money for projects in the "Greenway Corridor." The town applies for funding and the project is reviewed by the Greenway Commission and put to a vote to approve by its members. In the past, Greenway funding has benefited such projects as the Lewiston waterfront Underground Railroad monument, the Tuscarora Heroes project, War of 1812 bicentennial projects, plus assistance for Artpark, the Lewiston Council on the Arts, and the Lewiston Jazz Festival.

Reiter said Monday said he envisioned the town applying for $5 million to $6 million in Greenway funding for the two proposals, seeking $400,000 payments to the town annually, which would in turn be allocated to JDSPLDC to pursue the projects. "I feel (this way) we'll be getting some bang for our buck," said Reiter of the Greenway funding idea.

The latest plan follows on other JDSP enhancement ideas presented at earlier Town Board sessions. Included were a lodge and conference center, estimated at $1 million, a Buffalo Audubon Society Nature Center, estimated to be upwards of $5 million, plus a fish hatchery and other park improvements of undetermined costs. None of these projects have gone beyond the discussion stage, however.

Monday's plan, if ultimately approved under Greenway provisions, would see $400,000 delegated for Joe Davis and leave only a $100,000 balance to be eligible for other Greenway corridor project considerations for the foreseeable future. The JDSP improvements would also necessitate a restructuring of the town's contract with state parks, plus other adjustments to make it a reality.

Town Board members appeared interested in the Greenway funding idea presented Monday by Reiter, but took no action at their meeting. At a JDSPLDC session Wednesday at the Town of Lewiston Senior Center, that group discussed options such as the Greenway funding and also a 20-year, $6 million bonding plan paid for by the town to enable the JDSP improvements. Such a plan would also involve the need for town restructuring of its JDSP contract with state parks and work on other issues with the state involving park use, alienations and conversions. No actions were furthered by JDSPLDC Wednesday on either funding option.

The JDSPLDC will hold its next meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 21, at 5:30 p.m. in the Lewiston Senior Center. The group is also expected to do a presentation before the Lewiston Town Board in the future. (See related commentary on Page 4 of today's Sentinel.)

In other news from Monday:

•Reiter presented another idea where the town would sell green space areas to the private landowners whose properties adjoin them. Mentioned were private properties in the Lewistowne subdivision that surround undeveloped green space, where homeowners would be able to purchase unspecified amounts of land for as little as $1. Reiter said the town has contended with maintenance and liability issues with the green space areas over the years, which came under town control when the developments were built. He said property owners have expressed an interest in buying them. "This would take it off our hands," said Reiter.

No action was taken Monday, as Reiter instructed Town Attorney Mike Dowd to develop a working agreement to enable the proposal to happen.

•Reiter questioned the recent activity and costs incurred as a result of the SPCA contract with the town. Mentioned were SPCA services of 149 dogs over the period of one month and $4,800 in costs, which Reiter said he refuses to pay. "I will not pay this bill unless the board approves it," said Reiter. "It does not add up."

No payment actions were taken and the town is expected to bring in a SPCA rep to discuss the matter further.

•Board members discussed but took no action on a concern raised by Town Clerk Carol Brandon regarding the problem of political signage on lawns. Reiter said he advised Brandon to retain an outside attorney to examine the matter further; otherwise no action was taken.

•The board approved for Dowd to begin evaluating a plan to establish a town-wide drainage district, for the purpose of correcting drainage problem installations in front of residences. The issue came to light on concerns by the state regarding the town-funded installations of culverts on private properties. Reiter said such a plan would "give a mechanism to have piping placed in front of homes," where homeowners would pay for the installation.

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