With $6 million already invested in work at the Hyde Park Ice Pavilion since 2009, Niagara Falls Mayor Paul Dyster suffered a setback on Monday night when the city council fell one vote short of the super majority of four votes needed to approve a $3.1 million bond issue to fund replacing the aging rink pads and boards at the 40-year-olod facility.
"It is definitely a setback," set Council President Andy Touma after Monday's vote in which Councilman Glenn Choolokian held firm in his position not to borrow to complete the Phase IV work but to use casino funds to make the repairs.
While Councilmember Bob Anderson did not attend Monday's session, the council still needed a super majority of four votes to pass the bond authorization and fell short with Choolokian's opposition. Touma and his fellow lawmakers Kristen Grandinetti and Charles Walker also voted in favor of the bond resolution, making the final tally 3 to 1.
"Touma said the administration had decided to bond the work after going through a list of projects that were on the table, thinking it would offer the biggest return for investment given the economic activity generated by the rink,.
"It is an amenity that so many people use," he said of the Hyde Park rink, "and the work is needed for it to stay competitive with so much competition in the area." He said people come from near and far to compete at the rink and may decide to go somewhere else if the facility is not up to standards.
"A lot of nearby businesses that benefit from that heavy traffic are now left to wonder what's going to happen," said Touma, adding that work needs to start by April 15 to be completed in time for the start of the season in October.
Touma said with about 70 percent of the work at the Pavilion already completed, the administration will have to find the money somewhere else now that the bond resolution has failed, and that could mean some other planned projects will suffer.
Choolokian, a staunch conservative when it comes to spending taxpayer dollars, said he would have supported the repairs at the rink if the money was invested from casino funds, like a lot of other things in the city, but was firmly opposed to taking on additional debt to complete the Phase IV work (you can read his full comments elsewhere in this newspaper).
Touma countered that in reality the money from the bond issue was really coming from casino money, but was being spread out over 15 years to soften the impact. The administration will have to scramble quickly to find a source of funds to complete the Hyde Park repairs or risk the consequences of losing the $6 million in economic activity generated for local businesses by the tournament activity at the pavilion, according to rink operator Gene Carella.