Niagara Gazette

May 1, 2013

Lew-Port sets price for proposed rec center site

By Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — Progress concerning the Lewiston Civic Center has been at a complete standstill for a month now, as a desire for action and a slow, methodical approach have met each other head on.

Action taken Tuesday at a special Lewiston-Porter School Board meeting could give the project the life it needs to get going again, as the board approved a sale price for the center's eventual home.

The board, according to Superintendent Christopher Roser, will seek $50,000 total for 10 acres of land in front of the district's high school on Creek Road.

But is it exactly what some feel the property is worth? Not really.

"The property was appraised for $85,000," Roser said Wednesday. "It was a little different than what some board members felt."

The appraisal was completed by Anthony Garisole, president of Niagara Falls-based Girasole-Penale Appraisal, who presented his findings during Tuesday's meeting, Roser said.

Originally, the plan was to build the 140,000 square-foot building behind the high school on land currently undeveloped. Value for that land was originally stated to be $50,000, but the location turned out to be federally protected wetlands after further investigation.

Focus shifted to the front of the high school for the building, which could cost the town up to $10 million to build. The price of the new location turned out to be higher than the original location.

But it didn't change the board's mind about the property, in part because it plans on asking for concessions from the town as part of any deal. The board has asked the town to provide the district with preferential usage during school business hours and immediately following for both classroom work and afterschool sports practices and, possibly, games.

Though it was ultimately turned down in favor of finding financial compensation, one alternative could have asked residents for permission to gift the land to the town at no cost. Roser said the board felt it better to ask for something, even if it comes at a reduced price, to help offset its programming.

"The board felt because of the in-kind use being asked for in the agreement, that brought the price we'd be asking down," Roser said. "But the board felt we needed to ask for something. We're giving up a significant amount of greenspace and it's going to alter the look of the campus, so the board decided we'd want some kind of compensation for the ability to build on that location."

The asking price was set through a unanimous 7-0 vote by the board, Roser added.

School board President Jodee Riordan agreed with Roser's assessment, saying the board was trying to secure a fair value for the property.

"We wanted to make sure we did everything we could to assure we were getting a fair value for the property," Riordan said. "When we sat down, we decided it really was in the best interest of the community to have the town's facility on our campus. But we really wanted to make sure we were doing it right."

Lewiston Supervisor Steve Reiter said the board providing a price gives him something he can work with, which he's desired for a while.

"This gives us a goal by which to work to," Reiter said. "It's something I can take to my board. We can start moving again. With this, we can start taking some aggressive action towards bonding the project and other things we need to do."

Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.