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Rapids plans owl restoration party

LOCKPORT – The Lockport Town Board voted Wednesday to make a donation to the Aug. 29 celebration in the hamlet of Rapids that will mark the restoration of one of the community’s oddest and most distinctive landmarks.

The town will donate $400 to the Rapids Restoration Celebration Committee for the party to mark the return of an 8-foot-tall metal owl, which used to stand outside the now-defunct Owl Inn, a Rapids watering hole.

Town Clerk Nancy A. Brooks said the owl, which had flashing light bulbs for its eyes, had stood in Rapids since May 1937, but it went missing after the business closed 20 or 25 years ago. It was found lying in a field and was reintroduced to the public at the January 2014 Rapids Fire Company installation dinner.

Highway Superintendent David J. Miller, an exempt member of the fire company, restored the owl to its original condition, except that the lights in the eyes may now be solar-powered.

Miller said the main reason for the owl’s collapse was that the wood inside the metal rotted away; it has now been replaced. He said the metal itself was repainted by his wife Ginny. “It’s not rusted or thinned,” he said.

Brooks said a small parcel of land next to the fire hall has been donated as the new site of the owl. I

t’s not yet known how the base will be designed, but Brooks expects it to say “Welcome to Rapids.”

Also Wednesday, town resident Paul Black gave the town photos he took of the entire Vietnam Memorial Wall as it stood in front of Town Hall last month. The panoramic photos, one in color and the other in black-and-white, were shot with a fisheye lens. “That’s going to be hanging in Town Hall forever,” Councilman Mark C. Crocker said.

On another topic Wednesday, the board approved a new retainer agreement with a law firm that handles the town’s labor-related issues.

Barclay-Damon, formed from the merger of the Hiscock & Barclay and Damon & Morey firms, will be paid $260 an hour if a partner is assigned to a case, or $235 an hour if an associate attorney is assigned. Town Attorney Michael J. Norris said Damon & Morey’s 2014 contract called for charges of $220 to $250 an hour, but the firm actually billed $175 for associates and $210 for partners.

The board also agreed to purchase a four-ton “hot box” that keeps asphalt warm before it is used to patch roads. The $32,328 purchase will be made from a state pricing list. Also purchased was a pickup truck for the Highway Department from Joe Basil Chevrolet for $31,180.