West Seneca residents are mounting a challenge to the Town Board's plan to borrow up to $5.1 million more for the library/community center building.
"They need to stick to the original project, as it was scheduled out to be," said Dan Warren, who headed up a petition drive.
Petitions requesting a public referendum be held on the town's plan to issue additional bonds for the project were filed in the town clerk's office Friday afternoon.
The project is estimated to cost $14.93 million, according to the bond resolution. When the board approved the additional borrowing, board members said it was to bridge the gap until state grants are expected to be received, and the town engineer said the town was not expecting to borrow the entire amount. There also were some added costs when the town decided to have outside contractors instead of town workers finish part of the interior so it would be ready for the scheduled May 1 opening date.
"I think people feel that this project from day one was sort of like a moving project," Warren said.
The project was to be an expansion of the town library, next to Town Hall on Union Road. But it grew into a community-town office center, including a cafe, Chamber of Commerce offices and community spaces as well as offices for the town attorney, finance and human resources departments. Town Recreation Department offices will be in the new building, along with a half-court children’s space with a 9-foot basketball hoop. Town Board meetings also are to be held in the new center.
The town has been awarded several state and federal grants, but grant money does not all come in at one time, according to Supervisor Sheila Meegan. She said voting against the borrowing could delay payments to vendors, which could generate more legal expenses for the town.
Residents questioned the cost of the building during last fall's contentious debates on the town budget, which carried an 8.6 percent tax increase. The community center added about $9 to the total average tax bill this year, and is expected to cost about $33 a year on future tax bills for 25 years, town officials said.
"Why would you spend money you don’t have," former Town Board Member Dale Clarke said. "That project should have been a library and a library only."
Organizers said more than 1,200 signatures have been collected; and 686 signatures are required.
If the petitions are deemed valid, it is expected the Town Board could schedule a referendum April 24, the same day a special election will be held in the 142nd Assembly District to pick a successor to Michael Kearns, who was elected Erie County clerk.