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Mayor tosses cold water on mill's cost

Williamsville Mayor Mary Lowther on Monday dismissed a claim that restoring the village's historic water mill will cost up to $2 million -- or three times the original estimate -- as "ludicrous" and "just really irresponsible."

Lowther said the estimate of up to $2 million by Trustee Jeffrey Kingsley included work on the mill site the village never intended to do in the first place, as well as other questionable costs. That is what inflated Kingsley's estimate, she said.

"Next we'll have the public coming to Village Board meetings and saying, 'We're running you out on a rail. We're not paying $2 million.' Well, of course they're not going to pay $2 million," Lowther said.

She also said work will be done only as grant funding becomes available.

"You don't take on a project like this and expect to do it all at once," she said.

The dispute is one of many tied to the mill, which officials rushed to buy out of foreclosure in late 2004 -- fearing the village would lose the landmark to a private developer more interested in demolition.

The board paid $450,000 for the mill site and later received a report from outside experts, Bero Architects, pegging total restoration costs at $640,000.

Kingsley said the village's mill restoration committee has been discussing costs from $1 million to $2 million, with the high figure "in the realm of possibility. I hope it's less, but I like to be pragmatic."

Kingsley said the Bero Architects report did not include such costs as bringing down the debt incurred to buy the mill site or some expenses tied to restoration itself, such as the need for a project manager. His estimates also include work at two other buildings on the site and the cost of ongoing operations if the property remains in the village's hands.

But Lowther said village officials never planned to restore the other two buildings. She also said it is possible the village won't need to replace "every nut and bolt," which would keep costs down.

The $2 million estimate is "ludicrous is you don't have anything to back it up with, and as far as I can see, he has nothing to back it up with," Lowther said. "It's just really irresponsible.

Still, Kingsley said the mill is in worse condition than ever, and that will also drive up the costs of restoration.

e-mail: ncervantes@buffnews.com

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