Niagara Gazette —
Mayor Paul Dyster is working on a deal that would keep Old Falls Street operations in the hands of the state.
The city council voted unanimously to approve a resolution submitted by Dyster giving him the authority to execute a deal with USA Niagara Development Corp. that would keep Old Falls Street under the watch of the agency through 2013 without any financial contribution from the city at Wednesday's council meeting.
The council voted to end the city's agreement with USA Niagara at the end of 2012 and to keep the $3.1 million in state aid that has been passed through to the agency for the past 10 years during the 2013 budget process, which was greatly complicated by the ongoing dispute between New York state and the Seneca Nation of Indians over gaming rights. The city has not received host community payments guaranteed in the 2002 gaming compact between the state and the Senecas since 2009.
Dyster said USA Niagara's willingness to work with the city through difficult financial times is evidence of a strong partnership.
"We don't want to have a situation where we leave a vacuum in the management of Old Falls Street," Dyster said. "Their willingness to take this on absent of funding I think is just very helpful during a very difficult time."
Dyster said the state does not need a contract with the city to run the Conference and Event Center Niagara Falls and to perform its normal economic development functions.
"The agreement that is being contemplated here, we are going to try to formulate very narrowly just to deal with Old Falls Street," Dyster said.
USA Niagara and Global Spectrum, the private company contracted by the state agency to provide programming and run the day-to day-operations on Old Falls Street and in the Conference and Event Center Niagara Falls, will continue to fulfill those duties, Dyster said.
"What we're trying to do is to maintain the continuity of operations after New Year's," Dyster said. "So we're just trying to keep it simple."
Council Chairman Sam Fruscione said USA Niagara is continuing to operate despite the council's decision to hold the state aid the city had passed through for the last decade, as he and other council members suggested it would when contemplating the use of those funds.
"We're glad they're picking up their end and showing in good faith through both the city council and USA Niagara that we can work together even in tough financial situations," he said.
Fruscione said that if the ongoing arbitration between the state and Senecas ends favorably for Niagara Falls in 2013 the council will be able to reconsider returning to the old funding agreement.
"If happy days come back again then happy days are here again," Fruscione said. "If not then it's another tough year moving forward and we have to continue tightening our belts."