Niagara Gazette

April 15, 2014

Lewiston town official proposes cutting law enforcement details for Artpark shows

By Timothy Chipp
Niagara Gazette

Artpark concerts on Tuesday and Wednesday nights during the summer months have been a hot topic amongst residents both in and outside the Village of Lewiston.

For those in the village proper, dealing with a lack of relaxing evenings due to loud music and an invasion by sometimes rude, sometimes dirty visitors looking for the concert venue without paying to park on the state park's grounds might be a reality.

But for everyone in Lewiston, including the town outside the village, there's also the matter of the financial cost involved in securing the grounds and ensuring crimes aren't committed or are properly punished if they are. Lewiston Supervisor Dennis Brochey, a village resident, said he and finance director Paul Kloosterman determined the town spends $65,000 per year funding the Artpark-related law enforcement activity, while village residents pay $12,500 in related expenses.

All of this, Brochey said, on top of things within the town that need to be addressed, all with a price tag of close to $3 million total. He said Artpark, which receives financial support from the town in addition to the police expense, probably isn't his first priority.

"We have helped Artpark long enough and it's time we took care of our own town's needs," Brochey said Monday. "We have a worn-out senior bus that's 171,000 miles on it, a senior center with a leaky roof and no air conditioning. Our own sewer department building needs a new roof. All of our electronic water meter heads are two years beyond their life expectancy. Roads all over need repaving and a new large water line is needed in front of Lewiston-Porter schools."

Brochey said the town's financial future is also in question, as previous administrations relied too heavily on borrowing money to make projects work. Lewiston's current debt sits at $14.4 million, and Brochey said the town can't afford more or it could be facing a town tax.

He said his plan, which he laid out Monday in some detail, would help the town avoid taxing residents come 2015. But it might hurt their pocketbooks a little more now instead. In addition to reducing or eliminating the town's support of Artpark, Brochey is proposing reducing the bimonthly discounts residents receive on their water bills. Village residents would also see a reduction of the discounts provided on their bills, as well, he said.

The current discount stands at $20 per two-month billing period for town residents and $30 per three-month period in the village. Brochey said he'd like to reduce those to $14.90 and $22.35, respectively. It's a move, he said, that would provide $150,000 in added money to spend on other projects, including the ones he laid out.

Brochey's plan and his figures were met with resistance from some of the board members, though, as Councilman Ronald Winkley, a former town chief of police, said the costs Brochey listed relating to Artpark law enforcement were incorrect. In an exchange that became rather heated, Winkley said the true cost comes out to $42,000 to the town, not $65,000.

"I don't know where you're getting $65,000, but I figured it out," Winkley said. "It's six hours on Tuesdays and they don't do every single Wednesday. So, if we're gonna tell them numbers, let's tell them the right numbers."

Winkley, who up until this past week was a member of Artpark's board of directors, said his calculations used the top pay of every top officer, though the top-paid officers aren't always the ones on duty, as well as taking 40 percent of salary for benefits as a rough figure.

In addition to the Artpark discrepency, Councilman Michael Marra informed the board he's heard from a number of residents who've stated the water bill discounts were reduced for town residents already, despite no formal action from the board.

Both action items - the release of funds to support Artpark and the reduction of discounts on water bills - were tabled until the next town board meeting, set for 6:30 p.m. Monday, April 28, at town hall, 1375 Ridge Road, Lewiston.