The Niagara River Greenway Commission on Tuesday rejected two proposals that are likely to obtain Greenway money anyway.
The commission overwhelmingly shot down a Town of Lewiston proposal to build an $8 million civic center next to the Lewiston-Porter Schools campus on Creek Road.
It also refused to endorse Lew-Port’s $7.8 million proposal to remodel its high school auditorium and build a new swimming pool.
But the power to fund projects is not held by the commission – it rests with a panel of municipalities and the New York Power Authority, including Lewiston and Lew-Port.
By 8-2 votes, both projects were deemed to be “inconsistent” with the commission’s formal plan for a parks and trails system that would link Lake Erie and Lake Ontario along the Niagara River. Commissioner Sean Edwards, a former Lewiston Town Board member, and the Power Authority deemed them “consistent” with the plan.
Both Lewiston and Lew-Port plan to “leverage” the annual payments they receive from 50-year settlements with the Power Authority for the relicensing of the Niagara Power Project to borrow money for the projects.
Greenway Commissioner and Niagara Falls Mayor Paul A. Dyster said he felt similarly about the merits of each of the projects. Dyster noted the conflict between the Greenway Commission’s task and the terms of the legal agreements that established the funding streams for Greenway projects.
“We seem to be taking stands against positive projects,” Dyster said before voting against the school district’s proposal.
Dyster, who also represents Niagara Falls on the panel that funds Greenway projects in Niagara County, known as the Host Community Standing Committee, indicated his vote on that committee might be different than the one he cast Tuesday.
The Town of Lewiston’s proposal, which will be up for a referendum July 15, calls for using funding previously allocated for improvements at Joseph Davis State Park. Those previously proposed improvements, originally pegged at roughly $5 million to $6 million and now down to roughly $1.5 million or $2 million, were previously endorsed by the Greenway Commission.
The plans for the park have been scaled back and no longer require funding at the level previously approved, Lewiston Supervisor Steve Reiter said.
The town would use the next 30 years’ worth of payments from the Power Authority to fund the civic center project, according to its application to the commission.
Lew-Port officials want to use $6.3 million in Greenway funding for what would be the second phase of its “recreation complex.”
The district would use the next 15 years of annual payments to support the project, officials said in their application.
The commission endorsed a proposal from the Research Foundation for SUNY Buffalo State for a habitat study of the Emerald Shiner, a fish fed on by sport fish in the Niagara River.
A recent report from the Partnership for Public Good in Buffalo found that of the $50 million in Greenway funds spent so far, about half has been used on projects far from the Niagara River.