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Six Niagara County projects win Greenway money

WHEATFIELD – Six projects, including a civic center, a school campus project, reconstruction of a historical barn and a playground, won Niagara River Greenway funding last week from Niagara County’s Host Communities Standing Committee.

Under state law, the Greenway fund was intended to create an interconnected system of parks, trails and water access points along the Niagara River from Buffalo to Youngstown, and the committee has been criticized for not using much of the money for that purpose.

Members of the committee have rebuffed that criticism, as well as proposed legislation to further restrict use of the money to the riverbank, by saying it is a money grab by Erie County interests.

The money comes from the New York Power Authority, which must pay $3 million a year for 50 years for use of the Niagara River for energy production.

The Greenway committee is allowed to allocate money in future years, and it did so for two major Lewiston projects: the Lewiston Civic Center and the additions and renovations at the Lewiston-Porter school campus.

The 139,000-square-foot Civic Center, an indoor sports complex to be built in front of the high school, was allocated $430,000 a year for 30 years, or $12.9 million.

That will cover most of the construction costs as well as interest on the bonds the town intends to sell to pay the remainder of the tab. The actual construction cost was listed at $9.2 million in the town’s Greenway application, but Supervisor Steven L. Reiter said it may be as low as $8 million.

The bond sale is subject to a referendum of town voters, set for July 15.

The allocation to the school district’s $26 million project is $6.3 million, or $420,000 a year for 15 years. Lew-Port voters approved the capital project May 21.

The plan includes a new 25-yard, eight-lane, ground-level swimming pool to replace the 40-year-old pool on the second floor of the high school, which Superintendent R. Christopher Roser said is probably not “sustainable.” It leaks, he said.

Major upgrades to the school auditorium, entrance, music and art rooms and a new parking lot and television studio also are part of the plan.

Four smaller projects also won the committee’s favor.

Porter-on-the-Lake, the only town park in Porter, received $150,000 for handicapped-accessible playground equipment, pavilions and signs.

The Historical Society of North German Settlements was approved for $100,000 toward reconstruction of the Haseley Einhaus, a combination home and barn dating from 1843. The timber building has been taken apart and is being rehabilitated before it is installed on the grounds of the society’s Das Haus museum in Bergholz.

The Town of Wilson received $70,000 toward dredging in Wilson Harbor. Supervisor Joseph A. Jastrzemski said low water in the harbor “has really reached a critical stage. … Last summer, we lost two months of the boating season.”

The Greenway money will match a state grant for planning of dredging outside the main channel, where the Army Corps of Engineers will do the work next year.

The Niagara 1812 Bicentennial Legacy Council received $43,000 to pay for several upcoming events at Fort Niagara.