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Orchard Park seeks new Jolls House deal

The Orchard Park Town Board does not want to kick the Orchard Park Historical Society out of the Jolls House, a board member said last week.

"This is kind of 'The sky is falling, the sky is falling,' " Councilman David Kaczor said of concern over a letter the town sent, saying it wanted to terminate the lease. "I'm not sure who spread the word of panic, but really there was no reason for panic."

But panic is what some Historical Society members did when they saw the letter.

"I guess when I get the letter that says terminate, it tells me we're going to terminate," said Dennis Mill, president of the Historical Society.

Mill, a former Orchard Park supervisor, said the society runs the museum out of the Jolls House. He said he does not believe the town would displace the museum, but several members of the society were concerned over the letter.

The two-story brick Italianate structure on South Buffalo Street next to the municipal building was built in 1870 and purchased in 1902 by Dr. Willard B. Jolls, who set up a three-room clinic in the rear of the house and practiced there until 1960.

The town acquired the property in 1979, renovated it and leased it as offices until 1996, when it became a town museum and headquarters for the historical society. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Kaczor said the last agreement was reached in 1996 and required the society to pay utilities. Mill said the town offered to take over the utilities instead of giving a stipend to the society.

If state auditors should go through the town's books, Kaczor said, they would see the society is to pay for utilities and wonder where the town's money is.

"We felt we needed a new lease that reflects the times and better let us work together," Kaczor said.

He said the town has spent nearly a half-million dollars in renovating the building and wants to know everything is fair and equitable. He suggested the society could have contacted the town attorney, who wrote the letter for the Town Board.

The historical society and museum are tightly overseen by the Regents and New York State Education Department, Mill said.

"The Jolls House is listed as a museum. It would present a problem if the town said it wanted the building back," Mill said.

Kaczor said the town has no intention of charging rent, but it does want a new agreement with the historical society.

Town Historian Suzanne Kulp also told the Town Board that the society is not open with its books, a charge that several members denied.