Falleti Ice Arena: The ongoing debate
Once again on Monday evening, Batavia City Council members debated the future of the Falleti Ice Arena -- whether to sell it, or not; whether it makes money, or not; whether it's a vital service to the community, or not.
Councilman Tim Buckley indicated he's had enough.
The city is facing some big and tough budget decisions in the near future, and the council has a lot on its plate. Enough, he said, of debating Falleti Ice Arena.
“I don’t want to make this out as not an important issue, but I want to move away from this issue," Buckley said. "I want to get this thing done. I think as a council we have to realize we’ve got our hands full."
Buckley's suggestion: Have City Manager Jason Molino sit down with Firland, the management company currently running the ice arena, and see what kind of new lease terms can be arranged and bring that proposal back to the council.
After Buckley's opening statement, Councilman Bob Bialkowski said he's been doing the math, and he believes, all things considered, the city is losing thousands of dollars a year on the ice arena.
Bialkowski said he figures the city has expenses related to the ice arena in the range of $53,000, but only gets back in the neighborhood of $40,000.
City Manager Jason Molino said there are other variables involved, and some of the expenses wouldn't go away if the arena is sold -- such as debt service.
Councilman Bill Cox said he doesn't believe there is any way the city benefits financially from ownership of the arena.
"What’s in it for the taxpayers?" Cox said. "I don’t think anybody on this council, at least not in my hearing, thinks that we’re against the ice arena that we want it to close. ... I don’t want it to close -- I think it’s a great asset to the city. But it should be privatized.
"We’re talking about privatizing it, not closing it. When you privatize it, guess what, you lose control. Do you have any control over the guy who buys your house, what color he paints it after you leave? Of course not."
Councilman Frank Ferrando said while he was once in favor of selling the arena, he's gotten so much feedback from constituents that the city should keep it, that's who he is going to listen to.
"The vast majority of people in this community like the ice rink the way it is, with the city owning it, leasing to Firland," Ferrando said. "I don’t even know what the advantage would be to the taxpayer in the long run if we sold it."
With Cox, Bialkowski, Rosemary Christian and Sam Barone voting no, the council referred the matter to City Manager Jason Molino to see what can be worked out with Firland.
Near the end of the discussion, Cox suggested that WBTA, The Batavian and the Batavia Daily News all run surveys to find out what local residents want done with the arena. After the meeting, we showed Cox the results of an Oct. 26 poll on The Batavian (a totally unscientific poll, we noted) that showed only 22 percent of the respondents supported selling the arena no matter what. Cox's response: "Wow."