BY DENISE JEWELL

jewelld@gnnewspaper.com



The company that owns a deflated golf dome at the center of two lawsuits that involve the city of Niagara Falls has put up a snow fence around the Porter Road site after city officials repeatedly warned it was a potential hazard.

Richard Sullivan, an attorney for Greater Niagara Sports Group Inc., said the company erected the fence at the request of the city.

Greater Niagara, which owns the deflated dome at the city-owned Hyde Park Golf Course, is the target of two lawsuits that seek to break its deal with the city of Niagara Falls.

The first lawsuit, filed by attorney Ned Perlman on behalf of Niagara Falls resident Frank Scaletta, is still under appeal after a state judge upheld the agreement in late 2004.

Then Jan. 23, the city of Niagara Falls, which is a defendant in the first lawsuit, filed its own complaint against Greater Niagara in an attempt to void the June 2004 concession agreement that gave the company the right to operate the dome on the city’s land, as well as two nine-hole golf courses.

The city’s complaint against Greater Niagara asks the court to force it to remove the deflated golf dome from the Porter Road property.

Among other allegations, the suit claims Greater Niagara never made course upgrades promised in the contract, failed to provide liability insurance for the dome and did not pay a $50,000 developers fee due by June 2005.

Greater Niagara has not yet answered the city’s allegations.

However, Sullivan said Greater Niagara still plans to comply with the terms of the deal, but has been waiting for the lawsuit filed by the Niagara Falls resident to be resolved.

“Our rights are in that contract,” Sullivan said. “You can blame the taxpayers of the city of Niagara Falls. Don’t blame us. They’re the ones that put the circus there in court.”

Under the deal, Greater Niagara was to take over operation and maintenance of one of the city’s nine-hole courses, the Red Nine, on Jan. 1, 2005. Greater Niagara was also required to make $350,000 in improvements to the greens, fairways, sand traps and irrigation by the end of 2006.

Instead, Niagara Falls officials said last year that city employees had to maintain the course — sometimes at overtime costs — while it remained closed to the public.

The city’s cost to maintain the course last year, the suit contends, was $25,000.

Sullivan said Greater Niagara could not get a bank to finance the project while the contract was under challenge.

Sullivan questioned why the city would sue over an agreement that it is currently defending in another lawsuit. Both the city of Niagara Falls and Greater Niagara were named as defendants in Scaletta’s suit, which is being appealed.

Arguments are scheduled to be heard March 2 in the state’s Supreme Court Appellate Division 4th Department in Rochester.

“It’s kind of ironic that the city, who was also a defendant in that lawsuit, is saying that we breached an agreement that is under challenge right now,” Sullivan said.

Sullivan also pointed out that the City Council passed a resolution last February that directed city attorneys to seek to end the city’s concession agreement with Greater Niagara Sports Group.

Neither Mayor Vince Anello, who helped broker the Greater Niagara deal, nor the city’s attorneys acted on the council’s resolution.

Members of the Niagara Falls City Council have been asking for the city or Greater Niagara to put up a barrier that would protect the public from the deflated dome for several months.

A Greater Niagara golf instructor, John Kajfasz, filed a claim against the city in July for an injury he sustained when the dome collapsed during a snowstorm in April.

The city’s lawsuit claims Greater Niagara failed to obtain liability insurance for the dome that would have covered the injury.

Financial disclosure forms filed by the city last year for Anello list an outstanding loan from John Kajfasz’s sister, Kathy Kajfasz, made to Anello.

Anello has said there is no other link between Kathy Kajfasz and the deal he gave Greater Niagara Sports.

Contact Denise Jewellat 282-2311, Ext. 2245.

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