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City fails to sign courthouse contract

The city Monday missed another deadline to have a signed contract with the developer chosen to build a new $37.5 million courthouse and Police Headquarters on North Main Street.

A special meeting has been called for 4 p.m. Friday to vote on a "final" draft of a development services agreement submitted by Ciminelli Development Co. of Amherst and Largo Real Estate of Wheatfield.

However, Council Chairman Charles Walker said state Office of Court Administration officials met with city leaders Monday and "were not happy" that the contract wasn't already completed.

Ciminelli officials met for four hours Saturday with James C. Roscetti, the attorney hired by the city this year to negotiate a courthouse contract. The weekend talks centered around eight issues the city had with 18 previous drafts, and the result was a final draft submitted to Roscetti on Monday morning.

The contract is needed before architectural work on the project can begin, and the city is working under a deadline set by the Office of Court Administration to complete the building by March 2007.

"We answered all the questions with the contract at that meeting," said Largo President Gary Coscia. "We left that meeting with the understanding we would write a 19th draft."

Mayor Vince Anello, who wanted the Council to drop negotiations with Ciminelli earlier this year, Monday only characterized the negotiations as "ongoing."

Councilman Lewis Rotella attended Saturday's negotiations and said the meeting went very well. He and Walker said if everything Ciminelli officials talked about over the weekend is included in the final draft, councilmen will likely vote for it.

The Office of Court Administration has threatened for at least a year to sanction the city $12 million in state aid if it doesn't show forward progress with replacing the city's courthouse.

Also on Monday, the Council voted to decrease or eliminate several fees at Hyde Park Golf Course, bocce ball courts and public swimming pools. The Council voted to raise the rates last year as a way to increase revenue, but Councilman Chris A. Robins, who was not on the Council last year, said, "The city needs to keep quality-of-life issues alive."

At the golf course, the $25 tee time reservation fee will be eliminated for season pass holders; the golf cart rider fee is reduced to $5 from $10; and the weekend golf cart season ticket is reduced to $500 from $600. Also, the bocce court annual pass fee will be reduced from $25 to $5; the $25 summer pool pass and $1 per swimmer fee will both be eliminated.

e-mail: gfranklin@buffnews.com

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