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Town grants $1,750 for downtown Massena effort


MASSENA - Massena town officials will assist the Massena Historic Preservation Committee in its ongoing effort to seek designation as a National Register District.

In an early December letter, committee Chair Ken C. Cornell asked the town board for $1,750 to help them in the process.

The recognition would be from the New York State Historic Preservation Office, and through them the Federal Historic Preservation Office.

“The preliminary application will be for our downtown corridor, and, if approved, we will continue to add additional areas of Massena,” Mr. Cornell wrote in the letter.

Town Supervisor Joseph D. Gray noted that the availability of the allotment was due in large part to the gaming compact funds.

“If you remember, we allocated $20,000 in compact money for downtown coalition. The Historic Preservation Committee, which is part of the coalition, has requested $1,750 to use toward an application for the New York State Preservation Office National Register District. They want to designate parts of the downtown as a National Historical District, become registered, and the application fee is $1,750 - plus a whole lot of work that they’re doing,” Mr. Gray said.

“They want us to pay for it. What I said is, ‘If we pay for it, it should come out of the $20,000 we set aside for downtown.’ I wanted to see what (the board) thought about that.”

In his letter, Mr. Cornell pointed out that the designation would provide tax incentives - both state and federal - totaling 40 percent to any developer or property owner willing to “invest significant renovation dollars into their building. “Tax incentives of this amount could very well be the only way to entice building improvements,” he added.

Mr. Gray told his fellow board members he felt they needed to talk more about the distribution of the remaining monies that have been allocated to the downtown renovation effort..

“I think we need to have a bigger discussion about the $20,000. It’s come up a couple of times. The BDC is involved obviously with the downtown coalition. How do we decide how the money gets spent? Who decides that?” Mr. Gray asked.

“I don’t know if we have preferences or what, but we have two issues - this immediate expenditure request of $1,750 and then who makes the determination on how the rest of the money is spent? ... I don’t want to see the $20,000 spent in one place.”

“I would think that since we haven’t set up anything in the past, that we ought to have them come to us and we ought to do it just like with the RVRDA - with an application period and stuff like that,” Councilman John F. Macaulay responded.

Councilman Thomas C. Miller said that he feels the funds should be limited to the Massena Downtown Coalition.

“I would be in favor of limiting it to just the people working on the downtown revitalization, whether it be the BDC or (MDC). I don’t know how many total committees there are. I would say it would have to come from one of them because they seem to have a vision and a plan so let’s let them come to us,” Mr. Miller said.

According to Mr. Cornell’s inquiry, the application process for the Historic Preservation Committee involves photography, printing and presentation materials. “As we get closer to the formal presentation to SHPO, I anticipate these expenses to increase.”

Mr. Macaulay said that despite his interest in providing the funds to various coalition groups he had some concern with the legality of the town making the decision of how the money would be spent.

Town Attorney Eric J. Gustafson noted that various options are available. “It gets complicated when it’s municipal money, but there are any number of public things that can be done with the money. I’m just thinking off of the top of my head - you’ve got all of those committees that all have certain marketing and public improvement components to them, and if you require that the committees all submit to Tom (Sullivan) so that they can get to the board for approval, I think it can be done legally,” he said.

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