LOCKPORT – The John R. Oishei Foundation will be asked to supply $360,000 toward the restoration of two 19th century Erie Canal locks, the city's development agency learned this week.
David R. Kinyon, chairman of the Lockport Locks Heritage District Committee, asked the board of the Greater Lockport Development Corp. to sponsor an application to the Oishei Foundation for cash to be put toward the local match for a federal grant.
The city wants to restore the Flight of Five, a set of five stairstep locks unused for nearly 100 years, to working order in hopes that it will prove to be a tourist attraction.
The total project would cost about $10 million. Since that isn't on hand, the city has chosen a phased approach, beginning with restoration of two of the five stone locks, which are used as a spillway beside the two modern steel locks.
"We hope this will show to our funders the value of full restoration of the Flight of Five," Kinyon said.
Restoring Locks 69 and 70, as they are numbered by the state, would cost an estimated $2.62 million. Kinyon said the final plans are being drawn by Bergmann Associates, after the Common Council appropriated $48,400 for the purpose earlier this month.
The main source of funds is $1.72 million from a federal grant lined up in 2005 by former Rep. Thomas M. Reynolds. The Bergmann money came from that grant.
Kinyon said the Canal Corp. will be in charge of bidding and contracts for work at the locks. Bids for reconstruction of the two locks are expected to be let this fall, with work targeted to begin in December 2013.
The city has received grants totaling $173,313 from Lockport's Grigg-Lewis Foundation toward the Flight of Five project. Kinyon said the city needs a tax-exempt organization to serve as the formal applicant to the Oishei Foundation, even though the money would be passed through to the city.
The development corporation didn't act on Kinyon's request to serve as the applicant. Mayor Michael W. Tucker, the corporation's chairman, said the Niagara County Historical Society also has been approached to also serve as a sponsor.
Kinyon said serving as the applicant won't cost the agency any money, but he also asked the development corporation to consider serving as the operator of the projected Locks Heritage District, which might include not only the Flight of Five but a projected new city marina off West Genesee Street.
"I would think the city would have to get involved in operations and maintenance," Tucker said. The city already has committed to that role at the restored Flight of Five, which is owned by the New York State Canal Corp.
Kinyon said the annual cost of operating the Flight of Five might be $150,000; he said the cost for two of the five locks hasn't been determined. Tucker said the $150,000 is not a firm amount. The mayor also said no one knows how much staffing would be needed to operate the projected attractions. He said that might be an issue for the consideration of the city's new marketing director.
Tucker said that newly created job is to be posted soon, after the city's Civil Service Employees Association unit approves its insertion into the union contract.