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BOARD TAKES OVER-BUDGET GOLF DOME IN ITS STRIDE

Town of Tonawanda officials say that the golf dome in Brighton Park going over budget is par for the course -- or any large construction project.

At a Town Board meeting Monday night, officials announced the $2.5 million recreation facility will cost 15 percent more than originally anticipated.

"This is not an unusual or uncommon adjustment for a project this size," said Supervisor Ronald H. Moline.

The board unanimously voted to borrow an additional $400,000 for the indoor golf arena. The contractors can't get paid for another 30 days, during which residents can petition to hold a public vote on the matter.

The project went $362,000 over budget, so the town is borrowing $400,000 to be on the safe side, said Council Member E. William Miller. In November, town officials had said the golf dome had gone over budget by $200,000 to $270,000. The figure went up because the finishing touches were still being put on the dome and the town had not received all the bills from the contractors, Miller said.

The bulk of the changes were necessary because the soil was too sandy to support the golf dome's foundation, officials said.

Before construction began, the town took 10 samples on the site that failed to reveal the soft soil. If the town hadn't spent $195,000 to correct the problem, the golf dome could have become Buffalo's Leaning Tower of Pisa.

Another big cost was getting an exception to the New York State building code so that, instead of 100 people, the dome could accommodate 300.

The town got permission but in return had to spend more money to beef up its fire protection.

The other changes were to make the golf dome better looking and more comfortable.

"Our thinking was they would improve the ambience and amenities and therefore increase revenues," Moline added.

For example, the town spent $9,000 to add an air-conditioning system. The town also added a fountain and more trees around the facility.

"We went from a Chevy to a Cadillac to create more revenue," said Robert Morris, director of technical services.

And more revenue is exactly what Tonawanda got.

The golf dome took in $200,000 last year instead of the $100,000 the town expected.

And the numbers for 2000 look equally as good. Judging by January's figures, the golf dome is well on its way to bringing in $790,000 this year.

After paying off the bills and debt, the town had expected to net $200,000 in profit. However, the additional $400,000 the town is borrowing, drops the profit to about $160,000, Miller said.

"The dome will continue to be a profitable enterprise for the residents and taxpayers of Tonawanda," Moline said. "And it's already recognized as a regional asset."

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