The new Lewis County Board of Legislators may employ the common sense regarding its contract with the owners of a bowling alley in Lowville that the previous body couldnt muster.
During a meeting held Oct. 28, the County Board approved a deal by a 6-4 vote to buy Lewis Lanes for $1 million. They need to find adequate space to house the countys Office for the Aging, Board of Elections and Department of Motor Vehicles. Legislators had previously opted against spending $10 million to construct a county building on outer Stowe Street in Lowville.
However, two board members developed cold feet about the plan rather quickly while claiming they had been misled. Legislators Paul M. Stanford, D-Watson, and John O. Boyd, D-New Bremen, both voted to approve the contract Oct. 28. But then they switched their positions and voted Nov. 5 to revoke the contract, passed by the board by another 6-4 vote.
This was a bad move as the contract had already been signed. Backing out of it so abruptly was likely to invite a lawsuit by the owners of the bowling alley, which it did.
But now the reconstituted County Board is set to reauthorize the contract at its meeting later today. Six new members took their seats last month; neither Mr. Stanford nor Mr. Boyd remains a legislator. If a resolution is approved, the board would reaffirm its commitment to proceed.
The resolution offers the same three contingencies that the original contract offered: an appraisal at or above the proposed $1 million purchase price, an engineering report that is favorable to converting the building to office space and an environmental impact study that shows no environmental impediment to converting the building to offices, according to a Wednesday story in the Watertown Daily Times. In a news release issued with the Thursday meeting agenda, the county pledges a full review by an architectural/engineering firm of building space itself as well as an environmental assessment of the property.
Frankly, there is not enough information yet to assess whether Lewis Lanes will fulfill the countys needs. Perhaps the board should have taken a little more time to approve the contract than it initially did when it voted on the measure Oct. 28.
It would have been better if the County Board could have found usable space in downtown Lowville rather than on the outskirts of the village. Having an office downtown would have helped bring more people into the business district.
The board has missed its chance to apply rigorous analysis to its rather haphazard planning process. The contract was approved and signed, and the board incurred a legal obligation to honor it.
Legislators should approve this resolution today. Cooperating with the owners of the bowling alley to end their legal action against the county is in everyones best interests. Then the proper evaluation of the suitability of the building can begin under the terms of the purchaser agreement.