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Pact's approval ensures '07 Canal Fest

The Tonawanda Common Council on Tuesday night approved a one-year contract with the Canal Fest Corp., ensuring that the annual festival straddling the cities of Tonawanda and North Tonawanda will take place this year.

Negotiations between the City of Tonawanda and Canal Fest turned tense in 2005, when the Council rejected the initial bid to hold the festival on city grounds because of a disagreement about money. The two sides were able to come to a last-minute arrangement for a two-year contract to ensure Canal Fest remained in the Tonawandas.

This year's event is scheduled for July 15-22.

This year, negotiations went far more smoothly. The deal is similar to the 2005 agreement and includes Canal Fest organizers giving the City of Tonawanda $14,000 toward overtime and other expenses associated with hosting the event, as well as an additional $3,000 for capital projects benefiting the community.

"In essence, the resolution is the same as in years past," Council President Carleton Zeisz said.

The only difference is that the new agreement is only for one year. Canal Fest favored multiyear deals with the city, but with elections looming this fall, officials decided not to handcuff future Council members with a longer contract.

Reimbursement for the city has been a frequent sticking point in negotiations with Canal Fest.

With police, fire, recreation and public works employees often working overtime during the event, Tonawanda usually absorbs more expenses than revenue from the corporation. However, in recent years the Canal Fest Corp. has increased its level of reimbursement, while city officials have been able to rein in overtime costs.

The $3,000 designated for discretionary use is limited to improving or benefiting the area around the Erie Canal, the River Walk, waterfront and Gateway Park.

In the past, the city used the $3,000 in discretionary revenue to help the Historical Society of the Tonawandas. Zeisz said this year's money will be used to help plant and repair trees throughout the city damaged by last October's freak snowstorm.

However, some residents attending Tuesday's Council meeting were not supportive of the agreement.

"What kind of deal did you guys do," Edward Gebera asked. "Why can't we get another $10,000 out of them? They're walking away rich and throwing peanuts at us."

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