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CITY FEARS FACILITY WON'T BE SUMMER-READY

Fears that Buffalo's largest East Side recreational facility won't be ready in time for summer are creating more tension between city and county officials.

Mayor Anthony M. Masiello and Ellicott Council Member Brian C. Davis planned to hold a news conference today at the Johnnie B. Wiley Sports Pavilion at Jefferson Avenue and Best Street.

Masiello claimed Friday that the county might not be living up to its contractual obligations.

"There are signs that things are not happening at the Wiley center the way they should be," said Masiello.

He said the Board of Education sent its own crews to the center recently to prepare baseball diamonds.

The mayor pointed out that it was at the insistence of some county officials that the $6.8 million center was included as part of the plan to have Erie County run city-owned parks.

"I'm insisting that the county live up to its responsibilities," he said.

Masiello's remarks upset the county's commissioner of environment and planning. Laurence K. Rubin said he recently met with the mayor to discuss concerns about the Wiley Sports Pavilion.

"I'm shocked he's making a press event out of this after we had a meeting the other day," said Rubin. "We gave him a commitment." He added that county officials are assessing resources to ensure that all city parks are properly maintained. Buffalo pays the county $1.8 million a year to operate 180 city parks, playgrounds and recreation centers.

Rubin challenged implications that some terms of the takeover agreement are being violated. "The county is living up to its obligations 100 percent and more," he insisted.

Last week, Masiello took several Council members and other city officials on a three-hour citywide bus tour of a dozen parks. They concluded that presummer preparations in the larger Olmsted parks are proceeding at an acceptable pace. The county has hired the Olmsted Parks Conservancy, a not-for-profit group, to operate most of the large parks.

But city officials said they are concerned about conditions in some of the smaller pocket parks and neighborhood recreation centers.

Masiello reiterated his fears Friday that the county might not be taking all the steps required to prepare some parks for the bustling summer season.

"I have to be proactive," he said. "We can't wait to iron out problems until after the season starts. There would be chaos."

The Wiley Sports Pavilion is an athletic and education complex at the old War Memorial Stadium site. It includes an all-weather track, a football field, baseball diamond and 1,900 spectator seats.

e-mail: bmeyer@buffnews.com

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