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Artpark receives Greenway funding ... and then loses it

by jmaloni
Tue, Oct 4th 2011 09:40 pm

by Joshua Maloni

Shortly after the Town of Lewiston was awarded Greenway Plan monies to use for Artpark & Co. programming, those funds were taken back via a little-known loophole.

Seven of eight members of the Host Community Standing Committee voted Tuesday in favor of the town's appeal for $45,000 to fund this past summer's slate of children's programming. This majority action prompted HCSC Chairperson Don Rappold, Lewiston-Porter's assistant superintendent, to record the request as granted.

However, after two additional proposals were approved - Lewiston's Academy Park portable ice rink and the Lewiston Council on the Arts' "Marble Orchard: Spirits of 1812" mobile presentation - New York Power Authority relicensing special adviser Rob Daly informed Rappold that HCSC votes must be unanimous. Daly voted against Artpark & Co.'s funding, saying it wasn't in "the spirit" of the Greenway Plan.

Upon further review of HCSC protocol, board members determined Daly was correct, reversed the funding decision, and triggered a clause wherein the Artpark & Co. proposal could be presented for a second time (after 30 days pass). The board is set to meet again on Nov. 29.

Daly was told his "no" vote required an explanation. He indicated his biggest problem with the proposal was that the $45,000 seemed to be what he called "gap funding," or financing intended to make up for other losses (in Artpark & Co.'s case, a lack of state monies).

"We were informed this was a one-time request," Daly said of a similar proposal the Town of Lewiston made on behalf of Artpark & Co. in 2010. "This (second request) brings it to something else."

Earlier in the meeting, Town Supervisor Steve Reiter said, "We want the program to continue. We support it." He indicated the second request was due in part to Artpark & Co.'s desire to expand and enhance its outdoor amphitheatre.

Town of Lewiston grant writer Bernie Rotella said, "It's not gap funding, but, in a way, we're supporting these programs."

The significance of Artpark programming to the Western New York region, Rotella said, "is definitely worth the investment."

But Daly said a "yes" vote would indicate the HCSC was "beginning to bend ... the (Greenway) plan," which calls for projects and active recreation opportunities to enhance and promote the interconnected trails and walkways along the Niagara River corridor.

"The idea was not to supplant current funding," Daly said.

Part of the HCSC discussion centered on Lewiston's consent (or lack thereof) from the Greenway Commission.

"I'm a little confused," Daly said. "We're using the previous consistency?"

He was referring to the 2010 request, which, apparently, prevented Rotella from pitching a second request at last month's Greenway Commission meeting. At the September gathering, Rotella was on the agenda. Prior to his turn, the item was seemingly pulled.

After the meeting, Rotella said Reiter wanted to review the proposal. In all actuality, the Greenway Commission had told the Town of Lewiston the 2010 request was sufficient; the proposal was consistent with the Greenway Plan and didn't require a second vote.

Niagara Power Coalition counsel Stan Widger, of Nixon Peabody, asked Daly, "How are they supposed to satisfy the (Greenway Plan) criteria" if they aren't required to present their case anew.

Rappold said, "There's obviously some hoops we have to jump if we don't have eight votes. ... We don't have eight votes."

Following the HCSC meeting, Reiter said he was "very disappointed" Daly waited until the vote to announce his intentions. "He could've picked up the phone and called me," Reiter said.

The Town of Lewiston supervisor said, "I think we've shown some very visible, imaginative (projects), and with high-end results."

He added, "I appreciate the Town Board; its foresight and imagination and forthrightness to move forward and make Lewiston a positive place."

The HCSC approved the Town of Lewiston's other requests: $134,000 for an ice rink and warming tent at Academy Park in the Village of Lewiston, and $15,000 for the LCA's 1812-inspired performances.

Rotella called the ice rink "a place to go in the wintertime down by the river" with free skating and events for the public.

LCA Artistic Director Eva Nicklas said the Greenway funding, to be used for microphones, costumes and other materials, "will take us into the next 10 years - to continue what we're doing and turn people on to history."

She said the LCA's goal is to bring the show to Western New York municipalities and schools.

"The stories are interesting and good and we want to share them," Nicklas said.

The standing committee is comprised of Niagara County, the City of Niagara Falls, the Town of Lewiston, the Town of Niagara, NYPA and the Lewiston-Porter, Niagara Falls and Niagara-Wheatfield school districts. As part of NYPA's 2007 relicensing agreement and the subsequent Greenway Plan, the power authority agreed to pay $450 million over 50 years to fund greenway-related projects. The HCSC is annually allotted $3 million.

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