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Bowler’s remorse

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One member of the Lewis County Board of Legislators has assumed the role of a modern day Sisyphus, only this time wearing bowling shoes instead of sandals.

The focus of a well-known Greek myth, Sisyphus was condemned to push a boulder up a hill. At some point in his effort, however, the boulder rolls back down the hill and Sisyphus must begin again.

Legislator Paul M. Stanford, D-Watson, appears to have taken on this mission of futility in his own way. But rather than straining against a boulder, he is trying to toss a bowling ball up a hill to knock down the 10 pins resting on the crest — only to watch the ball roll back down before reaching its target.

By a 6-4 vote, the county board voted Monday to buy the Lewis Lanes bowling facility in Lowville for $1 million. Earlier this month, legislators opted against allocating $10 million toward constructing a new office complex on outer Stowe Street in Lowville to house county departments. They had been mulling the idea of acquiring the Lowville Commons building located downtown for $1 million.

But a small cabal of legislators recently discovered that Lewis Lanes was on the market, and these officials sprung a deal to buy the building on the rest of the board. Mr. Stanford was one of the six who voted in the majority to buy the bowling alley.

But by Tuesday afternoon, he began having second thoughts. He left a voice mail message for Legislative Chairman Michael A. Talbot, R-Croghan, declaring that he had changed his mind and wanted the board to convene a meeting and revisit the issue.

“I didn’t know until [Monday’s] meeting about the building,” Mr. Stanford told the Watertown Daily Times earlier this week. “I listened to what was presented to me. It made sense, and I voted based on that. … Now with what I’ve learned, I can’t stand behind that vote.”

The board can have another vote on a previously decided matter. But if Mr. Stanford cannot persuade one of the other five legislators from the majority to jump to his new side, his effort will be dead on arrival.

One drawback to having the county take over Lewis Lanes is that the building is not downtown. It would be a real boost to the village to have the county office’s centered downtown where they could draw people to businesses already there.

But by and large, the proposal is a good one. The bowling facility was constructed in 2009 after a fire destroyed the previous structure, so it’s relatively new. Officials can work with designers to create the kind of office spaces they need to run their departments.

It’s unfortunate that local bowlers will no longer be able to use Lewis Lanes after it closes next year, and it’s likely that Mr. Stanford heard from some of them after his vote. But he should have requested that the board take more time to consider the deal before voting on it. That would have been a good action, as it looks like only a few legislators knew about the proposal before their Monday meeting.

Now, the comparison to Sisyphus may a tad stretched. After all, Sisyphus must serve his punishment forever.

Mr. Stanford, however, is in control of how many times he wishes to throw the ball uphill to get a strike or pick up the 7/10 split. Perhaps after seeing the ball being returned to him the first time, he’ll realize that ancient legends don’t make good public policy.

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