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Rink likely to remain city-owned

A municipal skating rink will apparently remain owned and operated by the city, after officials spent weeks debating whether to sell the facility.

City Council members remain divided on the issue, but a majority appears ready to negotiate a contract renewal with Firland Management, which in the four years it has run the rink has increased revenue, added programs and paid the city more than $250,000 in rental time and $10,000 a year toward the cost of a new Zamboni.

The Lewiston, Maine, company wants to renew its lease, which expires in August, but wants an earlier agreement since ice rental times are assigned as early as March.

The Falleti Ice Arena, whose naming rights were bought by a family-owned local car business, opened in 1978 and is large enough for regulation hockey games. The Batavia High and Notre Dame school hockey programs are among the users. It also is used extensively by amateur leagues and for public skating.

Firland has made numerous improvements since 2006, when it began running the facility. About that time, the city completed $630,000 in energy efficiency improvements at the rink and city Fire Headquarters, which shares the building and some utilities.

The Council last month delayed, in a 5-4 vote, a proposal to spend $5,000 for an appraisal of the rink. The same majority appears to favor renewing a contract with Firland.

Two complications surfaced over a possible sale: The arena shares some services and a common wall with the Fire Department; and state law requires that the city-owned facility cannot be sold for less than fair market value, which an independent appraiser would need to determine.

While the maintenance has been expensive until recently, the rink was believed to have been built with federal community development block Grant money.

The city spent $350,000 on the rink in the 1990s, and in 2002 replaced the roof at a cost of $145,000. Since its contract began, Firland has improved the entry way, locker rooms and ice surface, among other things.

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