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Ogdensburg council poised to reject visitors center concession agreement

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OGDENSBURG — The city finally has found someone interested in operating the food concession at the Dobisky Visitors Center, but the City Council might reject a lease agreement for the space.

Trevor Brunet submitted a proposal to lease the kitchen at the center for $5,000 for one year. Mr. Brunet would pay sewer, water and gas bills, but the city would cover the cost of electricity and the security deposit for gas and allow the tenant to use the kitchen’s equipment.

Some City Council members objected to the agreement.

“Under the present terms, I will not support this,” Councilor Wayne L. Ashley said. “I think it is ludicrous.”

Mr. Ashley said the economics of the agreement do not make sense and cited a concern that the agreement would end up costing the city.

Mr. Brunet “wants the city to put up the deposit for the gas, and the lease agreement includes the city paying for the electricity, which I think is preposterous,” Mr. Ashley said. “This could be a losing proposition for the city.”

Mr. Ashley was joined by Deputy Mayor Michael D. Morley in his objections.

“I voted against putting a concession stand in to begin with, because I didn’t think it would ever work out to the city’s benefit or for local restaurateurs,” Mr. Morley said. “They pay the taxes in this town and we’re renting at wholesale prices to individuals — it is really unfair to our local business.”

Under the city charter, a lease agreement needs three-fourths of the vote of the City Council, or six out of seven council members voting yes, to pass.

Councilor Jennifer Stevenson said she would like to compare the agreement with Mr. Brunet with previous contracts with food vendors before deciding whether to support it.

“We’ve had the Dobisky Center opening for some time now,” she said. “I would want to see what the past leases have been like. It is not uncommon to have utilities paid as part of rent, but the rent has to reflect that cost. I will be looking at what expenses the city would incur over those 10 months, and look at what the past leases have been. We might be better off in the long run than in the shorter term.”

Mr. Brunet was the only person to submit a proposal to use the space this year. Ogdensburg has had difficulty finding someone to occupy the space.

After being built, the Dobisky Center’s kitchen was vacant for more than a year. When the space was first occupied, in 2009, several local restaurateurs spoke against the concession stand. No concessionaire has lasted for more than a year in the visitors center.

In 2008, the city spent $11,964 to equip it with two deep fryers, two grills, a refrigerator, a freezer and a preparation table.

Last month, council members discussed allowing community organizations to run the stand as a fundraiser.

Mayor William D. Nelson and Councilors Daniel E. Skamperle and William D. Hosmer did not return calls for comment.

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