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Town, Village boards discuss Winter Wonderland, ice rink

It was a warm June night, but the leaders in Lewiston were talking about plans for a Winter Wonderland in a joint session of the Village and Town boards Monday night.

Town Supervisor Steven Reiter told members of the Village Board that he'd like to use Greenway money to put a portable ice rink in Academy Park, with coolers, so that skating can continue into 40-degree days. It could go between the bandshell and the viewing stands, he said.

"This would be for seasonal use, and we won't leave anything behind after the [winter] season," Reiter said. "I thought it would be interesting if they could sell Christmas trees at the gazebo there, and it could extend the business year on Center Street."

He said funds raised could be used for fireworks in the summer.

"The Chamber has already said they would promote it," Reiter said.

"If you look at a week like Christmas, you would have people there all day," said Town Councilman Michael Marra.

Councilman Alfonso Bax said the lighting would have to be upgraded in the area so that skating could continue into the evening, and all board members agreed that a better electrical system could help the Kiwanis in its presentation of an end-of-summer favorite, the Lewiston Peach Festival.

Village Mayor Terry Collesano said he thought it was an idea he could go along with, and other Village Board members agreed. He said the Village Board also has been discussing a skating rink, as well as sledding on the slopes of the upper deck of the Lewiston Plateau, where there are still 20 acres available for recreational use.

Reiter said any plans for a year-round recreational center building would be best suited for the 10 acres behind Town Hall, which are more centrally located.

The boards also discussed funding for the budget of the $1.2 million joint Lewiston Police Department.

Collesano said the village, which pays 23 percent of police costs, was not a part of negotiations that increased spending. The village share of more than $276,000 was one reason village taxes went up, the mayor said, adding that village officials want to start a dialogue about some kind of relief or a cut in police costs.

"We appreciate [police] presence in our village, and they are doing an excellent job, but the cost is getting far out of sight," he said.

"We have 1,175 taxpayers, and you have 6,000," said Village Trustee Bruce Sutherland. "That works out to village taxpayers paying about $200 per person and in the town about $150 per person [for police coverage]."

Reiter said the town would be willing to discuss a town tax for public safety, which would roll both Police and Fire department into one tax, but said the village would have to lower its tax accordingly so village taxpayers would not have to pay twice.

Town Finance Director Michael Johnson said several entities that are tax-exempt -- such as the New York Power Authority, the Bridge Commission and Mount St. Mary's Hospital -- are not paying their fair share.

"Who are going to be the first people to show up at those places in an emergency? Police and fire," Johnson said. "That would be the first place you'd want to look at to get some additional help."

Reiter said the Town Board has already been looking at initiating a townwide public safety tax and said that might make it easier to go after entities that are tax-exempt and make sure they are paying their fair share.

Another joint board meeting was set for 5 p.m. Sept. 19 in Village Hall to continue discussions.

For complete coverage, go to buffalonews.com/lewiston.

e-mail: nfischer@buffnews.com