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Finger-pointing in Hamburg after meeting on sportsplex fizzles

There was no meeting in Hamburg on Friday to choose a developer for the town’s $25 million to $30 million multi-sports facility.

The meeting was either canceled or it could not take place because only one board member showed up.

And like many things in a town that has been beset with fractious politics, it depends on who you talk to.

“I guess they’re not showing up,” Supervisor Steven J. Walters said to three members of Hamburg Chamber of Commerce, four town employees and members of the media as he waited for Councilmen Michael P. Quinn and Tom Best Jr. to arrive for the special meeting.

They never did, and therefore the meeting could not take place.

Walters said the board was planning to designate Sportstar Capital of Toronto as the company to develop the project renderings and feasibility study for the sports facility. And he said not approving Sportstar on Friday puts the town in jeopardy of not being able to apply for a state grant by the July 29 deadline.

But the two councilmen said they did not attend Friday’s meeting because they were told Thursday it had been canceled.

“We were not voting on the agreement, we all knew that,” Best said when contacted after the nonmeeting. “I don’t know why he’s grandstanding. We’re all in favor of this project.”

“I thought we were canceling it. I told the town attorney, we had concerns that weren’t addressed by our legal counsel. We were going to give them time to hash things out,” Quinn said when he was reached after the nonmeeting.

The supervisor said he is the only one who can cancel meetings, and he did not cancel it.

No one from Sportstar attended the meeting Friday, although the head of the company did meet Monday with the board in executive session. Walters said the Sportstar official was told by the board he did not have to attend Friday’s meeting.

“This is about economic impact that this could have on this town. Do these guys not realize that? This is huge. What this could do to this economy is tremendous,” said Joseph Gunning, the former chairman of the Hamburg Chamber of Commerce. “To me it’s embarrassing that these guys are not here. Utterly irresponsible.”

But Best and Quinn say the project is being rushed through, and while they’re for it, there are many things that still need to be ironed out.

“This whole thing is being rushed,” Best said. “We are 100 percent behind the project, but we want this done the right way. We’ve got a responsibility to taxpayers to do it the right way.”

Quinn said, “There’s certain things in there that need to be fine-tuned before we vote on a $25 million-plus project. I don’t want to be pushed or rushed.”

Board members were given a draft of the agreement Sunday, the day before Monday’s regular Town Board meeting, Best said. They discussed it in executive session, and all board members said there were some issues to be addressed, but the hope was they could have the meeting Friday.

Walters said the issue concerned financing of the project. He said he spoke with the town’s outside counsel, who indicated a vote Friday could exclude the financing concerns.

He also said it would have been a “rush job” to get the grant ready by July 29, but the town’s grant writer felt it could be done. The company was ready to start Friday afternoon, he said. But without a vote Friday, “it appears we missed that opportunity.”

Walters said he was anxious to get the process started, so there would be drawings and renderings to bring to the public. He said he was hoping to schedule a public meeting soon.

“We can’t ask for public involvement if we’re showing them a blank piece of paper. We need something to show them,” he said.

Walters said he will not be available next week, but it would be possible for the two councilmen to hold a meeting and vote on the project.

email: bobrien@buffnews.com