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Kinyon says Lockport needs operating agency for Flight of Five

LOCKPORT – Bids for the first phase of restoration of the original Erie Canal locks are due July 10, the city’s development agency was told Thursday.

David R. Kinyon, chairman of the special committee that has been overseeing planning for the project, again urged the Greater Lockport Development Corp. to set up a subsidiary to run day-to-day operations at the Flight of Five, as the 19th century locks are known.

The city already has signed agreements with the state Canal Corp., which owns the locks, to operate a restored flight for 40 years and pay for the costs of operations and maintenance of the Flight.

Kinyon had proposed a special assessment on downtown businesses as a means of paying the estimated $100,000 annual operating cost. But the Common Council scrapped that idea and intends to use general revenues, Kinyon said.

Mayor Michael W. Tucker said the Flight will require two part-time seasonal employees.

Kinyon said he expects the Canal Corp. to award a contract in August or September for the restoration of two of the five original locks, with a target date for their opening of June 2014.

The city, through federal and foundation grants, and $380,000 in borrowing approved in March, is supplying the money for the project.

Kinyon said he wants his committee to be phased out and replaced by a new Lockport Locks Heritage District Corp. with eight members: Tucker, Planning and Development Director R. Charles Bell, one representative each from the Council, the GLDC board and the Canal Corp., and three citizens.

“The corporation won’t assume any of those financial obligations. It’s really an oversight, like a management corporation, that will run the day-to-day affairs,” Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said.

Kinyon said the new district board’s first step should be to issue a request for proposals to “operate the attraction.”

“I don’t think we’ll have any trouble finding a good organization to be the operator,” Kinyon said.

“The locks district is more than the locks and Canal Street,” Bell said. “It also includes future development, like the [proposed] marina.”

Kinyon said his committee is still seeking foundation funding for one-time exhibit and sign costs, and for implementation of an eight-step interpretation and signage plan, designed by Eisterhold Associates of Kansas City, Mo.

It includes a “gateway” structure for Canal Street on the north bank of the canal, being designed by Bergmann Associates, the Rochester firm that designed the plan to restore the locks to working order.

A replica packet boat to go through the restored locks to show tourists how they worked also is part of the plan, Kinyon said. However, funding hasn’t been located for the boat, to be built by Buffalo Maritime Center.