Niagara Gazette

July 13, 2013

GUEST VIEW: Lewiston civic center project will impact Lewiston taxes; use up most of greenway funds

By Paulette Glasgow
Niagara Gazette

Niagara Gazette — When asked what motivates politicians Will Rogers could only respond, “I love a dog. He does nothing for political reasons.” It’s a shame politicians aren’t more dog-like in their decision making approach if they were future problems could be avoided. But somewhere along the way a politician’s ego blinds him or her from thinking clearly. Their sole motivation isn’t to make decisions benefiting the community but to feed a self-serving ego through the accumulation of power and that cumulative hunger creates problems. For Lewiston that hunger will create problems for the next 30 years.

How will this happen? Well, it’s being proposed to use, for the next 30 years 80 percent of greenway funding on a single project — the civic center. With such a large percentage of greenway funding dedicated to one project little or no funding will be available to fund future projects in Sanborn, Colonial Village, or the Village of Lewiston. Little or no funding to improve our parks or sponsor summer youth programs at Artpark or fund the Jazz Festival. Little or no funding dedicated to Lewiston’s place in history. For the next 30 years one project will dominate greenway funding leaving little funding available for future worthy projects. Oh, some will dispute this claiming the civic center won’t create such a problem, so in the immortal words of Joe Friday, just the facts please.

Annually Lewiston receives $510,000 in greenway funding. These funds have been used to build monuments and streetscapes, sponsor youth programs, contribute to jazz festivals, improve a farm museum, restore our parks and turn an historic law office into a welcome center. Presently greenway funds are paying down an annual contractual agreement of $84,000 for an ice rink. If you subtract the annual $84,000 payment Lewiston has $426,000 for the next 30 years to fund future youth programs and jazz festivals, build more monuments and continue to improve all of Lewiston’s parks.

In its recent greenway application Lewiston proposes to use $430,000 annually for the next 30 years to pay for the civic center leaving $80,000 per year available to fund future projects. But this scenario is complicated due to an annual $84,000 contractual obligation for the next four years. Bottom line, if Lewiston annually dedicates $430,000 toward the civic center, and if the remaining $80,000 is used to pay off the ice rink and finish projects at Joe Davis as the town supervisor has said, there will be no greenway funding available for the next 30 years.

Recently, Lewiston invited a sports management expert to review the civic center project. At a recent meeting I asked him could he purchase 10 acres of land, pay all associates fees, build and supply a 140,000 square foot facility for $8 million dollars, he answered no. Could this be done for $12 or $13 million? Again, he answered no. How much would it cost to purchase land, pay fees, build and supply a 140,000 square foot facility? He answered over $15 million dollars.

I asked, using local resources, how long would it take before the civic center would see a profit, he answered at least five years and only with professional management because local sports managers don’t have the management contacts needed to generate funds to pay for the marketing and daily operation and maintenance.

Supporters of this project claim $8 million will purchase land, pay fees, marketing and daily operation and maintenance, build and supply a 140,000 square foot building plus generate a profit while not taxing Lewiston property owners. Around Lewiston supporters have placed signs claiming an $8 million dollar bond can do all this and create “no additional taxes.” Oh, really.

On May 13, at a town board meeting authorizing the issuance of said $8 million bond, the following was read into the record, “the payment on the principal of and interest on such bond shall be made by the annual levying on all taxable real property in said town, a tax sufficient to pay the principal of and interest on such bond.”

The individuals behind these signs claiming no additional taxes are misleading the public because that is exactly what is being proposed at a special Monday referendum regarding this $8 million bond. Should this multi-million dollar bond pass, every Lewiston resident will have their property taxed until this bond is paid off and there will be no greenway funds available for future projects.

The idea of such a facility is a good one but not if it causes lack of funding for future projects and creates a financial burden for the Lewiston community. After waiting years, money is available to complete long-delayed projects but to commit 80 percent or 30 years of funding while taxing Lewiston property owners will again cause a delay and create financial hardship for Lewiston residents. For months I’ve asked that this project be scaled down and made more cost effective. Each time this request has been made those in charge have sat silent and continued with their agenda.

Self-serving motivation is a strange thing. It sometimes causes those to suffer from delusions of grandeur. It’s been said those processing this trait always feel a lot better about themselves. So it would seem those making this misguided decision and misleading claims must hold themselves in the highest of esteem because what they’re planning will create future funding problems for years to come while imposing a tax burden on Lewiston property owners.

Paulette Glasgow is a Lewiston resident.

Paulette Glasgow is a Lewiston resident.