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LOCKPORT - The success of the city's summer concerts could be harnessed to pay for the operation of the restored 19th century locks, according to the chairman of the Lockport Locks Heritage Committee.
Mayor Michael W. Tucker called the proposal "thought-provoking."
David R. Kinyon, who also is the Town of Lockport's economic development director, presented the Common Council with a plan for a public benefit corporation that would operate the restored Flight of Five, as the original locks are called, along with a proposed new city marina and the Friday night concerts.
If adopted, the plan would take effect in 2014 and could take the costs associated with the concerts and the Flight of Five out of the city's property tax budget.
"That's a very, very rough budget, depending on what scope the Council wants this organization to have. They might just say, 'Operate the Flight of Five,'?" Kinyon said.
"It takes some of the pressure off financing," Tucker said.
Kinyon's proposed Lockport Locks Heritage District Corp. would be a subsidiary of the city development agency, the Greater Lockport Development Corp.
The new corporation's board would include the mayor, the city director of planning and development, a GLDC board member, an alderman, and three other citizens to be chosen by the mayor.
Kinyon said the idea germinated from the city's commitment to the state Canal Corp. to operate and maintain the restored locks.
The city has enough federal and foundation money available for the $2.6 million cost of restoring two of the five locks to working order. Restoring all five would cost an estimated $10 million.
Bids are to be sought in June 2013 for Locks 69 and 70, which are the middle lock and the second lock from the top of the Flight, Kinyon said.
"The Canal Corp. has identified the need for us to have an ongoing funding stream for operations and maintenance for the Flight of Five," Kinyon said. "When we visit foundations [looking for grants], they all talk about sustainability."
Kinyon's proposed annual budget for the organization envisions paying for the $8,800-a-week stage rental costs of the Labatt Canal Concert Series. That's now a city expense under terms of a contract with promoter Kathy Paradowski, and it's a controversial expense in some quarters.
However, Kinyon's plan assumes there will be only six summer concerts, the same number Alderwoman Anne E. McCaffrey suggested for the series during a Common Council work session Friday. At present, there are nine concerts.
But the main revenue sources would be new fees connected with the concerts and creation of a special district assessment for the Heritage District.
Kinyon's budget assumes the collection of $54,000 in vendor fees at the concerts and $100,000 each from the special assessment and other "special event fees."
It assumes it would cost $100,000 a year to run the Flight of Five, a duty which Tucker said would be contracted to a private company. The new marina suggested for the canal above the locks was estimated to cost $125,000 a year to operate.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com