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BILL TO RENOVATE ALLENDALE THEATER IS DEFEATED, 7-3 2 ON COUNCIL SEEK COMPROMISE IN LAST-DITCH BID TO SAVE PROJECT

A bill favored by the Allentown Association that would have ensured the renovation of the historic Allendale Theater was defeated Tuesday by the Common Council.

But two Council members said they would try to mediate a last-ditch compromise that could save the project.

As time runs out, Council Member at Large Clifford Bell and University Council Member Archie L. Amos Jr. offered to work toward an accord between the association, which owns the 75-year-old vacant theater at 207 Allen St., and the Theatre of Youth Inc., once foreseen as its manager and prime user.

The two are at odds over how a restored theater would be run.

Although some Council members were skeptical about reaching a compromise, Amos said that "anything is possible."

The bill defeated Tuesday would have turned the theater over to the city, established a city-appointed management board and barred tenants from a management role. The bill was sponsored by Niagara Council Member Joel A. Giambra.

After much debate and parliamentary confusion, Giambra urged that his bill be voted down, and the Council obliged, 7-3.

Giambra said he took his position because "the votes weren't there" for passage and because there was general confusion about the next step.

He said that if a compromise were worked out, it could be put in resolution form and brought to the Council meeting June 13. But that seems to be the last chance.

A Council resolution authorizing a city borrowing of $475,000 toward theater restoration has to clear all its hurdles -- including time for a mayoral veto -- by June 30, the end of the fiscal year. The bond resolution has no effect unless the city owns the building.

TOY had urged defeat of the Giambra bill. The theater group wants to have exclusive management rights so it can sublease it to other groups and gain income it says it needs. Giambra's bill would have permitted TOY to be a tenant, but no tenant would have had a role in the theater's management.

Earlier in the day, Allentown Association President Richard A. Stockton told Council members that if Giambra's bill failed, the theater would be put up for sale to private interests.

Two Council members with links to TOY invoked the city Code of Ethics and abstained in the votes. Council Member Eugene M. Fahey is the husband of Colleen M. Fahey, TOY director, and North Council Member David P. Rutecki is board chairman of TOY.

Both said that there was no conflict of interest but that there was the appearance of such a conflict.

"I can't be objective on this project anymore," Fahey said. "The Allentown Association has made so many personal attacks" and has told "scandalous lies."

"I don't think there's a conflict," said Rutecki, who disclosed that he soon would be leaving the TOY board. "It's the appearances I'm concerned with."

Another wrinkle was offered by Assistant Corporation Counsel Russell J. Sciandra, who said provisions of Giambra's bill were in conflict with an Allendale resolution passed Jan. 10.

That resolution authorized a city takeover, but with different conditions, including completion of a lease between TOY and the city for theater operations. Sciandra said the management plan in Giambra's bill conflicted with the lease provision in the January resolution.

"You can't have both," Sciandra said.

Rutecki was one of the skeptics about a compromise. "I'm not optimistic," he told his colleagues.

Also at stake is a $500,000 state grant toward restoration. The state has set a July 31 deadline for the city to take ownership.

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