The Hamburg Town Board Monday night agreed to purchase the Penn-Dixie fossil quarry site.
The total purchase price is $242,500 for the 56.7-acre site off Bayview Road abutting Ravenwood North Industrial Park.
The figure includes $74,000 in cash options from recreation fees as well as sewer studies performed over more than two years of negotiations, $96,000 from federal Community Development Block Grants to be used to purchase 24 acres of the site, and a $72,500 cash payment.
The current owner of the property, Vincent Bonerb, is making a $95,000 donation by lowering the purchase price by that amount from the original asking price of $337,500, Councilman D. Mark Cavalcoli explained. The vote was unanimous but the board was subjected to some sharp questioning by audience members who questioned the wisdom of the purchase.
Board members said the action preserves a valuable regional fossil site and provides the town with the opportunity to develop the property surrounding the quarry for industry or housing.
The site will be managed by the Hamburg Natural History Society and, now with town ownership, outside grant funds might become available.
The society will continue to seek funds to repay the town for the purchase as well as develop the site but there is no timetable for the repayment, Cavalcoli said.
Ray Pawlowski said the town has its priorities misplaced and will face cleanup costs and liability problems and the site is inaccessible for fire and police.
Cavalcoli replied that development will make the site more accessible and discourage unauthorized use of the area.
Tom Tasseff said the town is speculating on the property. Cavalcoli said he views it as an investment in the future by protecting the site and an economic development opportunity.
Jerold Bastedo, chairman of the Natural History Society, said the site is visited by hundreds of people, including many school children, a year and the society has plans to develop parking and nature trails and secure the area.
Future plans include a classroom building, Cavalcoli said.
Other board members also defended the purchase, stressing the development potential as well as protecting the fossils.