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One Lewis County legislator has second thoughts on lanes purchase

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LOWVILLE — Despite being faced with questions from unhappy or confused constituents, none of the six Lewis County legislators who voted to purchase Lewis Lanes on Monday woke up with buyer’s remorse Tuesday.

By afternoon, that had changed.

Legislator Paul M. Stanford, D-Watson, said he no longer can stand behind his vote and had left a phone message for Legislative Chairman Michael A. Tabolt, R-Croghan, requesting a special meeting to rescind his vote.

“I didn’t know until yesterday’s meeting about the building. I listened to what was presented to me. It made sense and I voted based on that,” he said.

Mr. Stanford said he learned more Tuesday.

“Now with what I’ve learned, I can’t stand behind that vote,” he said. “If in the spring it can’t be worked out, then I can see doing it, but I don’t feel that way right now. Not when there may be other options to save it.”

Richard E. Crouse, co-owner of Lewis Lanes with his son Derek, had not heard of Mr. Stanford’s about-face when contacted for comment Tuesday evening.

“We’re ready to sell. It’s not feasible as a bowling alley at that price,” Mr. Crouse said.

“We’ve already lost people,” he said, based on news of the sale. “I don’t see how he can do this legally.”

Mr. Tabolt was uncertain whether there were avenues for Mr. Stanford to change his vote.

“I’ve got to look into it,” he said. “I guess first I should contact Paul.”

He said he was unaware Mr. Stanford would be requesting a special meeting.

Mr. Stanford did not disclose the new information that prompted him to change his mind, but said he would be part of trying to keep the alleys open.

“I seldom change my vote, but I think something may be able to be worked out, so I want to change my vote,” he said. “If we’re going to work on economic development, why aren’t we going to work on that?”

“Call me soft-hearted,” he said, “but I worked there for years. I took my dad there. I bowled there. I’m not ready to give up on it yet.”

Other legislators were satisfied with their decision and want it to stand.

“I felt better,” said John O. Boyd, D-New Bremen. “Once I explained everything to everyone that called, they understood.”

And, he pointed out, it was far from a forced sale agreement.

“We didn’t go to them; they came to us,” he said.

Legislator William J. Burke, R-West Lowville, recalled a time at the bowling alley when there were enough people to support two flights of leagues a night.

“The place was full. People ate and drank and the bar was full,” he said. “It’s just not like that anymore.”

The dwindling numbers helped drive the Crouses to decide to sell.

Wendy Mahoney, who provides public relations at Lewis Lanes, said, “The decision was made by the owners to sell and a vote was taken by the legislators. Please understand this was a democratic decision. We as a county have to look up and above and look for light at the end of the tunnel. We can’t condemn a family for making a business decision.”

Legislator Craig P. Brennan, R-Denmark, said he answered questions about what was seen as a hasty decision.

“I can tell you (Mr. Tabolt) gave this as much due diligence as possible. We didn’t reveal what was going on until we were prepared,” he said. “It was not an attempt to cloak it in secrecy. We were honoring the Crouses’ wishes during the negotiation process.”

As for those who think the county removed a viable business off the tax roll, Mr. Brennan said that’s not what went on.

Businesses that rent to the county receive tax exemptions.

“Whether an office is located in the Commons Building or a building we own, we aren’t receiving tax dollars. We’re merely shifting the burden, not taking it off the roll,” he said, as the Commons Building and DMV building would be returned to the tax roll once they are vacated by the county.

“I have no regrets, “ he said. “I may have upset some people, but I think once the dust settles, they will see we made a responsible decision.”

Earlier in the day, Mr. Tabolt toured the facility with Frank J. Pace, senior planner with Lewis County Department of Economic Development and Planning, and Ward J. Dailey, Lewis County code enforcement officer.

“I’m even more encouraged by what they said,” Mr. Tabolt said.

“I really believe we don’t have to do an extravagant project. It’s got everything,” he said.

“Everything” includes a kitchen facility to be used by the Office for the Aging and enough space for a meal site.

Relocating the meal site will save an additional $12,000 in rent yearly.

Legislator Philip C. Hathway, R-Harrisville, pointed out the 21-foot ceilings could offer space for a mezzanine, as well.

“It’s got a low-maintenance roof and no elevator to break,” he said.

Moving from leased space will save $140,830 in rent alone.

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