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Panel allows sidewalk spending from parks fund

WHEATFIELD -- The Town of Lewiston will be able to spend more than $800,000 from a parks and recreation fund on three projects, including 5,700 linear feet of new sidewalks, thanks to a vote this afternoon from a panel of eight governmental bodies.

The Host Community Standing Committee, without a single dissenting vote cast, agreed to allow the town to fund the projects, during a meeting in the Niagara County Center for Economic Development on Inducon Drive.

Aside from the sidewalk project in Sanborn, Lewiston officials received approval for improvements at Kiwanis Park on Oxbow Lane, and a 5,000-square-foot expansion for the Sanborn Area Historical Society.

The three projects were endorsed by the Niagara River Greenway Commission on May 18.

The standing committee consists of the New York Power Authority, Niagara County, the City of Niagara Falls, the towns of Niagara and Lewiston, and the school districts of Niagara Falls, Lewiston-Porter and Niagara-Wheatfield.

The standing committee controls $3 million in annual funding as part of the members' Greenway fund for parks and recreation projects. Lewiston's share of the fund is $510,000 per year.

The funding comes through a settlement with the Power Authority for the relicensing of the Niagara Power Project. That settlement provides for $9 million in annual funding for Greenway projects, money which is controlled by four standing committees.

Aside from the Power Authority, the seven members of the Host Community Standing Committee, which had been known as the Niagara Power Coalition, also share a $5 million fund for capital projects.

Lewiston's annual share of that fund is $850,000.

8:59 a.m. Thursday: Here's the version of this story that appeared in today's edition.

2:43 p.m. Wednesday: When asked why the town did not seek to pay for the sidewalks with money from the capital fund, Lewiston Supervisor Steven L. Reiter said he believes the project fits criteria established for Greenway projects.

The town has other projects, like water and sewer line work, for which the capital projects fund can be used.

"We were just trying to judiciously use our funds in the most productive way to support the town," Reiter said.

The sidewalks are to be installed on Saunders Settlement Road and Buffalo Street, according to the town's application.

2:13 p.m. Wednesday: A fourth proposal from the town, to create a dog park on Lewiston Pleateau, was tabled after procedural concerns were raised. Some standing committee members said they thought the panel should wait to vote until 90 days had passed from the time the town submitted its application to the Greenway Commission.

In recent Greenway matters, the state parks agency and the Power Authority last week voted to spend $1.1 million in Niagara River Greenway funds on a pair of new comfort stations in two state parks in Niagara County.

Here's a blog post on the Greenway Commission's May 18 endorsements, which include the Lewiston proposals and links to each application document.

Here's the Power Authority's Web site for relicensing issues.

--Aaron Besecker

Greenway projects in Buffalo, Niagara County endorsed

1812garden for web
Christopher Brown of Buffalo looks over a historical informational display during a ceremony on Sunday to dedicate the First U.S. War of 1812  Bicentennial Peace Garden, at 269 Dearborn St. in Buffalo. A new proposal for the neighborhood, which calls for a multi-purpose trail, has been endorsed by the Niagara River Greenway Commission. (Charles Lewis / Buffalo News)

Eight projects have received the endorsement of the Niagara River Greenway Commission, a move that opens the door to millions in available funding.

The commission tabled one project -- a proposed dog park in Lewiston -- when it met Tuesday.

Once a project is endorsed by the commission, the applicant can make a request to any of the several standing committees which control $9 million in annual funding specifically for Greenway projects.

The Greenway Commission authored a 2008 master plan for a series of interconnected parks, trails and green spaces along the Niagara River from Buffalo to Youngstown.

Here are the projects that were endorsed Tuesday, though the vote tallys of the commission were not immediately available:

War of 1812 Trail in Black Rock - Buffalo
The proposal calls for a the development of a multi-purpose trail highlighting spots of historic significance to the War of 1812 in Buffalo's Black Rock neighborhood. The project, which would include sites on Niagara, Amherst, Hamilton and Dearborn streets, has a total budget of $115,000, according to the organization's application. The project is a collaboration between the Black Rock Riverside Good Neighbor Planning Alliance, the Dearborn Street Community Association, the Northwest Buffalo Community Association and the City of Buffalo. Read the full proposal here.

Education and Interpretive Center at Joseph Davis State Park - Lewiston
A $195,000 project to improve avian habitat in the state park in Lewiston, as well as build interpretive facilities on the site. It is a collaboration between Audubon New York, the state parks office and the Buffalo Audubon Society. Click here to read the full proposal.

Comfort station at Fort Niagara State Park soccer field - Youngstown
The state parks office wants to build a new comfort station that is closer to the playing fields and that will be open year-round. The estimated cost for the project is $560,000, according to the agency's application. Here's the full proposal.

Comfort station at Four Mile Creek State Park - Porter
State parks officials want to replace an existing comfort station at a total estimated cost of $540,000, according to the agency's application. Read the full proposal here.

Kiwanis Park improvements - Lewiston
Town officials want to install a new safety surface on the ground, add a multi-use court, separate park equipment based on ages of users, and make the park compliant with the American's with Disabilities Act. Total estimated cost for the project for the park on Oxbow Lane is $240,275, according to the town's application. Read the full proposal here.

Sanborn streetscape improvements
Town of Lewiston officials want to build 5,700 linear feet of sidewalk on Saunders Settlement Road and Buffalo Street in Sanborn. The project's estimated cost is $323,799, according to the town's application. Click here for the full proposal.

Sanborn Area Historical Society expansion

The organization wants to build a 5,000-square-foot building that will include a museum and artifact display area, according to the group's application. The $260,000 project will make improvements for bus and emergency entrances, as well as make the complex compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Here's the full proposal.

Village of Lewiston Historic Piper Law Office

The village moved the historic building across Center Street into Academy Park last year. Officials are looking for $54,000 to renovate the building to open a welcome center. Read the full proposal here.

Here's the project that was tabled:

Town of Lewiston dog park
Town officials have proposed creating an off-leash dog park on 1.3 acres at the Lewiston Plateau. The total cost of the project would be $51,500, including costs for fencing, landscaping and amenities. There will be separate sections of the park for big and small dogs, according to the town's application. Annual maintenance will be paid for by the town. Click here to read the full proposal.

--Aaron Besecker

Former Lew-Port board member out of legal options

Stepien scott mug A former Lewiston-Porter School Board member has run out of options in his legal battle that stemmed from being removed from the board three years ago.

A federal judge today dismissed an appeal from Scott A. Stepien, who claimed his constitutional rights were violated when he was was taken off the board for failing to complete a financial oversight course.

U.S. District Judge Richard J. Arcara tossed out the suit in an order issued after Scott A. Stepien failed to appear for arguments on Monday.

Stepien was appealing a decision issued in February by Magistrate Judge Hugh B. Scott, who ruled Stepien had failed to prove other board members and attorneys were acting outside their official roles when they removed him. Stepien was later reinstated to his board seat by the state Education Department.

Stepien objected to Scott's ruling in a March 22 letter to Arcara.

--Aaron Besecker

Lewiston's Newlin looks back, ahead

Newlin for webOutgoing Lewiston Supervisor Fred M. Newlin II gave a self-described "valedictory" speech during his last Town Board meeting on Monday night.

Newlin (photo by Charles Lewis/Buffalo News) doled out thanks, reviewed the town's progress under his administration and pointed to two factors which he said will most affect Lewiston in the future.

Since he first took office six years ago, the Democrat said Lewiston made the most progress tackling taxes, energy costs and maintaining and improving quality of life.

Issues related to the environment and development were the two that will be key moving forward, he said.

Listen to Newlin's full comments here:

Fred Newlin (10:37)

Republican Steven Reiter, the town's highway superintendent, defeated Newlin in November's general election and will lead a Town Board with a 4-1 GOP majority.

Monday's meeting was also the last for Democrat Councilman Sean Edwards, who did not run for re-election.

--Aaron Besecker

Lewiston monument a labor of volunteers

Lee Simonson, described as the "architect" of efforts to build an Underground Railroad monument in Lewiston, got a surprise Wednesday night.

The former Niagara County legislator will be honored by the Western New York Association of Historical Agencies with its annual individual achievement award for his work during the last three years developing the sculpture designed by artist Susan Geissler.

"It was his commitment and his conviction and perseverance and stroke of genius in engaging Susan Geissler that made this magnificent work of art a reality," said Pam Hauth, executive director of the Historical Association of Lewiston. "He is extremely deserving of this recognition."

Simonson, Hauth said, took an idea to honor the freedom seekers and volunteers on the Underground Railroad to fruition by writing proposals, securing funding and pushing the idea forward.

His work was done entirely as a volunteer.

"He has been tireless in his endeavor to see this human experience brought to us and cast in bronze," said Diane Finkbeiner, another project volunteer.

An unveiling Wednesday night of the bronze and stone sculpture was a celebration of work done by volunteers like Simonson. They hope those efforts will shine for years to come.

The monument, Simonson said, "will have such an effect on those who see it that its impact will echo throughout future generations."

- Denise Jewell Gee

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