LOCKPORT – A request from the Town of Lockport for Niagara River Greenway funds for bleachers at two soccer fields has been held up by the New York Power Authority.
But the $25,400 request apparently will be granted at the next meeting of the committee that controls Greenway funds in Niagara County, whether the Power Authority approves or not.
The Niagara River Greenway Commission unanimously voted Nov. 19 that the town’s request for the bleachers at Day Road Park was not consistent with the principles and goals of the Greenway, which was supposed to create a green belt of trails and parks along the river.
However, the commission doesn’t have anything to say about funding. Those decisions are made by standing committees, which can accept or ignore the commission’s views.
In Niagara County, it’s often the latter.
The Host Communities Standing Committee, which controls the purse strings for Greenway funds in Niagara, relies on the terms of the deal its members made with the Power Authority, which states that projects in municipalities that include the Erie Canal, the Seaway Trail or the Niagara Wine Trail are just as eligible for Greenway money as riverfront projects.
In fact, the entire county is open to Greenway money.
The committee’s rules, however, say that unanimous consent for funding is needed the first time a project comes up for a vote.
Thus, the Power Authority’s “no” vote last week was enough to block the money for the bleachers for at least 30 days, despite the support of the other seven members.
The host communities are Niagara County, the City of Niagara Falls, the towns of Lewiston and Niagara, and the Niagara Falls, Niagara Wheatfield and Lewiston-Porter school districts.
On Feb. 11, the date of the committee’s next meeting, the request likely will go through, because only six votes are needed for approval on a second try.
Lou Paonessa, the Power Authority’s community affairs director for Western New York, said he cast the “no” vote “for the same reasons that it was unanimously voted inconsistent by the Greenway Commission.” He said those reasons were that Day Road Park is too far from the Niagara River, and that bleachers for soccer fields are “a maintenance-type project.”
Town of Lockport Supervisor Marc R. Smith wasn’t fazed by the vote.
“We’re not going to have any need for [bleachers] the next couple of months, anyway,” he said. “I think it’s unfortunate, but they’re probably taking a very strict view of the distance from the canal as their criterion. From our point of view, that park draws a lot of people to the area and we’re able to hold events there, so it’s an important part of our canalway system.”
The park is about 1.2 miles from the Erie Canal.
At the same meeting, the committee gave a cool reception to Greenway Commission Chairman Gregory Stevens.
“I’m convinced there is significant opportunity to work together in ways that are more productive than we have in the past," he said. “The Greenway is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”