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Setting aside objections from Supervisor Susan J. Grelick, the Amherst Town Board on Monday accepted a proposal by Food Art Concessions to take over food service at the Pepsi Center.

Under the plan, the company will take over food service from Sportservice Corp., which has managed at the four-rink complex since December 1997.

Food Art guaranteed the town more than $58,000 a year in base payments plus 3 percent of revenues exceeding $300,000 during the five-year contract, according to Council Member Shelly Schratz, who led the search for a new concessionaire.

Grelick, who strongly supported Sportservice, sent a letter to board members this week warning that the town stands to lose nearly $80,000 in changeover costs if it selects a new concessions company. But in the end, she cast the lone dissenting vote against the proposal.

"The board sees that we need change," Schratz said following the vote.

"The people wanted a change. This has been a long two years of trying to bring good business practices to the town," she said.

According to Schratz, by next year the town should be receiving "positive revenues" for concessions and the restaurant, "something we have never had good numbers on."

In a related matter, a town committee is expected to meet next week to consider proposals from five groups, including the town Recreation Department, to take over the remaining aspects of the Pepsi Center's management.

And in other action, the board:

Voted to approve a new lease for the Pepsi Center fitness center, which has been vacant for a year since the last operator departed, owing the town nearly $30,000. The new lessee, First Athletics and Sports Training, has offered a three-year agreement with renewal options that will pay the town an average of $42,000 a year for the first three years, escalating to $66,000 in years 7 through 9.

Approved a total of nearly $700 in travel expenses for three town employees but refused to name them.

Council Member Daniel J. Ward complained about the secrecy, but the board voted, 6-1, to grant the funds anyway.

According to the meeting agenda, two of the travelers, identified only as Recreation Department employees "x. xxxxxx & x. xxxxxxx," were seeking $362 in "additional travel expenses" after attending the North American Rink Conference in Chicago from May 8 to 13.

The third request was for $316.86 for Engineering Department employee "x. xxxxxx," who will take part in the Fifth Annual State Purchasing Forum. No location was given for the meeting.

Ward said the "x" identities reminded him of the masked movie hero Zorro, who slashed the letter "Z" with his sword to identify himself.

"Is the public ever going to know who these people are?" Ward asked to no avail.

After the meeting, The Buffalo News filed a Freedom of Information request with Town Clerk Susan J. Jaros seeking the names of the three employees.


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