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July 14, 2009 - 1:32am

Council asks attorney to prepare proposal for selling Falleti Ice Arena

posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, Falleti Ice Arena.

The City of Batavia might sell Falleti Ice Arena. Then, again, maybe not.

The City Council instructed City Attorney George Van Nest on Monday night to prepare an RFP (request for proposal) that would allow private investors to bid on the property, but council members also expressed some skepticism that in the current environment, any investors who would offer a realistic price could be found.

"In the current credit crunch, the chances are that any RFP is going to bring in bids in the low end," said Councilwoman Marianne Clattenburg.

But council members Bill Cox and Frank Ferrando protested that the city doesn't have any business being in business and that the ice arena should be privately owned.

Issuing an RFP doesn't guarantee the city will sell the facility.  Some minimum requirements would need to be met by the successful bidding, including a minimum price.

Peter O'Brien
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Isn't it part of the firehouse? How is that going to work?
John Roach
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When this came up before, Mr. Ferrando refused to talk about selling the Ice Rink. He said we needed to keep it, and then spent a lot of tax money on it. Nice to see that now he is running again for election, he wants to save money.
Bea McManis
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Batavia shouldn't be in the ice rink business. It is one more piece of property that is tax exempt. Are they selling the business and not the building? If so, then what have they saved...it is still a tax exempt structure.
John Roach
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If they sell one half, the Ice Rink, to a private company, it does not have to be tax exempt.
Howard B. Owens
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There was too much going on last night for me to ask anybody this question, but my question for the businessmen on the council who espouse the ice rink as a private business, surely as a businessman, you understand the risks of business -- a large percentage of businesses fail. If the ice rink is sold and the buyer goes out of business, then what? Batavia has another empty hulk of a building? Attached to a fire hall? Just like a public park, there is a good deal of public benefit, such as providing a good outlet to keep youths occupied, to the ice rink. Is it really a smart business decision to unload the ice rink and lose control of that asset (Clattenburg made a somewhat similar point)?
Bea McManis
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Posted by Howard Owens on July 14, 2009 - 9:41am Just like a public park, there is a good deal of public benefit, such as providing a good outlet to keep youths occupied, to the ice rink. Is it really a smart business decision to unload the ice rink and lose control of that asset (Clattenburg made a somewhat similar point)? There is a difference between a public park (which can be used by the majority of the people) and an ice rink (which has specific uses and caters to less than half the population). What asset are they losing? We, the tax payers are shouldering the burden for this 'asset'. There is little return on the investment. It is just another property the city owns and is not on the tax rolls. I can see the need for an ice rink. I can also see it operated by people who know what they are doing and have the resources to make the rink a first class facility that would house hockey used as a training center for speed and figure skating; and provide a place for recreational skating too.
Peter O'Brien
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Parks cater to specific groups just like the ice rink does. If I don't play soccer, what good is a soccer field in a public park? Based on your logic about the ice rink it should be sold because most people don't play hockey or skate, well most people don't play soccer either. There are plenty of roads that most people will never drive on, should we sell them to someone else? The library isn't used by a majority of the population, sell that too. I voted to sell the ice rink but the reasoning is different. I would like to have more pick up hockey times and ice in the summer. Current management doesn't do that.
Howard B. Owens
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So you would be OK with it being sold, the business failing, the building setting empty for years, with no place for people to skate or hockey teams, and it not generating any tax revenue because the bankrupt business won't be paying taxes, the building falling into increasing disrepair, and dragging down the value of surrounding properties, further depressing the tax rolls? I'm not saying that will happen. I'm saying, that's the risk. And if you're OK with that possible outcome, then I guess selling it is no big issue. I'm just playing devil's advocate here. If you're going to say this is a business decision, then you (meaning those advocating it as a business decision) need to do what good business people do and look all possible outcomes and judge the level of acceptable risk. There are plenty of publicly owned public ice skating rinks around the nation, so there is plenty of precedent (I think Wollman in Central Park is public, though Trump runs it), so it isn't enough to just say "the city shouldn't be in the ice skating business." That position isn't as air tight as its proponents might pretend.
John Roach
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How about moving the Police to the Ice Rink and selling the old City Hall?
Gabor Deutsch
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I played amatuer ice hockey at the rink when it was first built and two years afterwards. Unlike going to the city parks, everyone was charged to skate. Everytime I showed up for practice or a game it cost 3 dollars. Not to mention a flat fee to be on the sponsored "team" and open skate or renting the ice for pick up games. I think they still charge everyone to skate dont they? If so, then how can you compare this with city parks, that only charge for large organised gatherings ?
Peter O'Brien
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I play hockey but I haven't been to Falletti yet. Its hard enough to get on a team when you start at a new facility that I don't want to leave Lakeshore. That is why I want more pick up games down there. 10pm on a wednesday doesn't work for me.

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