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Override of veto imposes new hourly fees for ice rinks

New hourly rental fees at three city-owned ice rinks will go on the books after city lawmakers voted Tuesday to override a mayoral veto.

The Common Council voted, 8-1, to override Mayor Byron W. Brown's veto of a fee schedule that was supported by the organizations contracted by the city to run the rinks.

The organizations, including Hasek's Heroes and Buffalo Bison Hockey, have told a city lawmaker that the new fee schedule was needed to cover costs, asserting that the fees Brown wanted fell far below average fees in the area.

In the end, all developmental league groups will pay the same, and all nondevelopmental groups will pay the same, regardless of residency.

Brown, for the second time in six months, issued a veto message, dated Friday, in which he rejected the new set of fees because they would increase the cost for groups made up of city residents, while they would lower fees for groups of nonresidents.

Brown, as he did with his last veto, said he believes that city-owned rinks should promote youth hockey in the city.

"I am concerned that these increases could have a detrimental impact on city resident participation," Brown wrote in his veto message.

But North Council Member Joseph Golombek Jr., prior to the override, questioned the mayor's action and said that all parties involved in using the rinks agreed to the new fee schedule.

Golombek said that if the mayor was concerned about promoting youth hockey in Buffalo, "then he should have kept the rinks in the control of the city."

When the city took back control of parks and recreation facilities, including the rinks, from Erie County in 2010, the fees reverted to lower ones that had been written in city law. Those fees had been in place from 2003 or 2004, Golombek said.

"Everybody would love to roll the clock back," he said, "but you can't."

The changes in fees will see the hourly group rates for city residents increase to $150, from $110, for nondevelopmental leagues, and to $120, from $80, for groups in developmental leagues.

For nonresidents, group rates for nondevelopmental groups will drop to $150, from $180, while those for developmental leagues would drop to $120, from $200.

The rates will be in place for this year and next, and all group fees will increase by either $20 or $25 an hour in 2014.

The latest package of fee changes differed from the previous proposal in that there was no fee increase sought for individuals, either residents or nonresidents. The Council never tried to override the veto of the earlier proposal, with members saying that they'd had bad information when passing that plan.

South Council Member Michael P. Kearns was the only one of nine lawmakers to vote against the override Tuesday.

Also on Tuesday, the Council put off a vote on proposed expansion plans for the Acropolis restaurant on Elmwood Avenue.

The city needs to complete the environmental review for the proposed Acropolis expansion, Assistant Corporation Counsel Alan P. Gerstman said.

An aide to Delaware Council Member Michael J. LoCurto said Tuesday morning that LoCurto wanted to segment aspects of the project in the approval process. In the end, LoCurto favors approving the second-floor patio with some conditions, denying the application for a second-floor bar and approving the use of restaurant space on the second floor, said aide Bradley K. Hamm.

The Council also unanimously approved a number of six-figure public works contracts, including for engineering costs on the project to bring vehicular traffic back to Main Street, as well as engineering work at Kleinhans Music Hall.