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MAR 03 - MAR 10, 2015

Borrowing $3.1 Million for Ice Pavilion While Wasting Millions in Casino Cash is Foolishness

By Glenn Choolokian
City Councilman and declared candidate for Mayor of Niagara Falls

March 3, 2015

On Monday's council meeting, Council Chairman Andrew Touma submitted, for the second time in a row, a resolution to authorize the city to bond $3.1 million for Ice Pavilion improvements.

It failed to pass both times - because, when the city wants to borrow money - a super majority or four of five council votes is needed.

To date, Councilman Robert Anderson and I have not been persuaded that such borrowing is a good idea.

For my part, I'm concerned.

The City of Niagara Falls is in debt for more than $63 million, not counting interest. The Dyster administration continues to submit budgets year after year with tax increases, layoffs, and the added scare of loss of services to families in Niagara Falls.

I can't vote to borrow $3.1 million for this project to be paid back by taxpayers for years to come.

It seems the genesis of this resolution is that Mayor Dyster apparently suddenly realized, and then informed some on the council, that the Ice Pavilion project urgently needs millions more to finish.

How did this crop up without advance notice?

The Ice Pavilion project is not new. The renovation package was voted on in 2009. Clearly no one ever spoke in the beginning of this Ice Pavilion renovation project that the city was going to have to borrow millions to complete it. This bonding need came out of the blue.

One would think that with good management, projects are preplanned and money allocated in the budget.

Even if this $3.1 million was unexpected - and that's a lot of money to be unexpected - why are we finding out, suddenly, about an overnight, urgent need for $3.1 million, and not five months ahead of time?

Two years ago, you may recall, the council was told by the mayor about another emergency at the Ice Pavilion -- that the council needed to vote right away - replacing mechanicals under one of the rinks because it would not last much longer, maybe only a few more days.

The council bought in.

Two years later, and the emergency rink repair was never done.

The money set aside for the rink repair was spent on things unrelated to the Ice Pavilion.

Now here is another emergency, so hurry up and borrow $3.1 million.

With that said, please do not mistake my support for the Ice Pavilion, the operator, Gene Carella, and this project.

I voted to approve millions in casino money to finish the project.

During those years, with each new funding request, the council was told by the mayor that we are at the tail end of this project.

Clearly this project should have been pre-planned using casino money yearly in the budget. I support using casino money to complete this project.

When you consider all the wasteful boondoggles the mayor has spent or plans to millions on with our casino cash, it seems natural to use $3.1 million of it for the Ice Pavilion.

Consider, the mayor set aside $4 million per year for five years ($20 million) for the Governor Cuomo's Economic Development Contest - where millionaire developers will compete for millions in prize money - to be judged by USA Niagara. The city does not need to invest in the state's contest.

Or we could use the $3.2 in casino money allocated for a municipal animal shelter, or the $1.5 million given the state agency USA Niagara yearly for running the Conference Center and staging parties and events on Old Falls St.

Projects like the Ice Pavilion are the things that casino money should be used for, things that will benefit our children, benefit our community and things that will last for years to come.

Councilman Glenn Choolokian says he supports the Ice Pavilion project but not the way it is funded. He thinks that instead of borrowing the money to complete the project, the city should use casino funds.






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