Niagara Gazette — It began 2013 as an anticipated proposal, drawing support from multiple organizations throughout Lewiston, Porter and Youngstown and more than one school district.
But the fate of the Lewiston Civic Center swung 180 degrees as the calendar shifted into summer and when it mattered, Lewiston residents emphatically turned down the town’s proposal to build the estimated $10 million building.
The vote wasn’t even close as “no” votes more than doubled the affirmatives during a special election in July. And it left just one of a number of black eyes on the political career of then-Supervisor Steve Reiter.
Reiter termed the defeat of his project, which he campaigned on while bidding for the leadership office in 2010, “disappointing” as town clerk employees read off the results that night, adding the project likely died completely and wouldn’t be redesigned to fit a smaller footprint.
The vote came weeks after Reiter was reportedly questioned by the Federal Bureau of Investigations over drainage work he’d performed as highway superintendent before 2010, as well as the disappearance of gasoline from town stores. The negative publicity may have influenced the decision handed down by voters, while questions of spending on the project also arose weeks before.
Starting out as the Lewiston Recreation and Senior Citizens Center, the building was designed to provide anyone in town a place to go to exercise or meet. But after much debate, the town dropped plans to relocate the senior citizens center into the building, dropping the estimated cost and appeasing many of those who use the current center on Lower River Road.
Renamed the Lewiston Civic Center, a committee in charge of overseeing its development contacted and approached highly regarded The Sports Facilities Advisory founder Dev Pathik, a Florida-based contractor who would’ve likely been hired in some capacity had the building been approved.
Pathik expressed his optimism for a successful center during a visit to the area in June, citing the region’s established tourism industry as a potential catalyst for success drawing tournaments and income quickly.
But it was another observation by Pathik that may have turned the project into a failure. When asked about the specifications of the building he’d been presented and the current state of the building economy, he said the town’s $10 million estimated cost wouldn’t begin to cover the real expense to get the facility built. He put the price tag closer to $17 million as a low figure, possibly higher.
So when residents were asked to approve the building, a section of the proposal including a provision allowing the town to impose a tax on residents to make up any difference between construction expenses and funding available quickly became a sounding off point for vocal opponents of the project. To them, it appeared they’d be asked to make up the difference between what the town received from Niagara River Greenway funding – $10 million approved by a steering committee before the vote – and Pathik’s estimate.
This opinion won out as Youngstown and Porter supporters were left to watch from the sidelines. Months of negotiating with the Lewiston-Porter School District to purchase land in front of the high school on Creek Road was abandoned. The building was mothballed before it even started.TOP 10 The Gazette is counting down its top stories of 2013 through Jan. 1. Here's the list so far: • 10: Teens involved in Isabella Tenant murder sent to prison. • 9: 2013 brings change to Niagara University. • 8: Lewiston Civic Center saga • 7: Coming Wednesday Contact reporter Timothy Chipp at 282-2311, ext. 2251 or follow on Twitter @timchipp.