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City, Privateers continue talks about move

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The City Council learned Monday night that providing a home-team locker room could be the biggest stumbling block to luring the Thousand Islands Privateers to the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds next season.

Interim City Manager John C. Krol told the council members that talks between the city and owner Nicole E. Kirnan went well earlier in the day, but the hockey team wants assurances the city will construct a new locker facility.

Without a lot of time to budget, design and build a permanent facility before next winter, the city hopes Ms. Kirnan will agree to use a temporary locker room instead. City officials are wary of spending money on a permanent facility without a guarantee the Privateers would return the following season.

City officials have not determined how much a new locker room would cost.

Council members also learned several popular events, such as Friday night open skating, Saturday night “Rock and Skate” and Immaculate Heart Central High School hockey, would have to be moved to other times because the Privateers play as many as 20 of their games on weekends.

But both Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham and Councilman Jeffrey M. Smith said those obstacles should not interfere with luring the team to Watertown.

“Look at ways to make it happen,” Mr. Graham said.

If the deal can be reached, the team would play about 30 games at the fairgrounds’ municipal ice arena. Games would begin at 7:30 p.m.

Ms. Kirnan has indicated Watertown is the team’s top choice for relocation. She expects the Bonnie Castle Recreation Center in Alexandria Bay, where the Privateers have played the past two seasons, to close because of continuing financial problems. The Privateers also have been looking at Ogdensburg, Clayton and possibly outside of the north country for their new home.

Mr. Krol said some issues pertaining to a contract with the team have already been settled, including a fee schedule for ice usage and policies and procedures for the Parks and Recreation Department. The city would continue to run the food concession stand, and it could be expanded to accommodate a bigger menu. The team would manage the beer concession stand.

With the Privateers as a backdrop, council members continued the ice arena discussion during a budget session on capital improvements, also held Monday night.

Councilman Joseph M. Butler and Mr. Smith urged department heads to plan several arena upgrades. They noted the 40-year-old roof needs to be replaced, the concrete floor is getting old and new bleachers and a sprinkler system must be installed.

But Mr. Graham stressed that some other Parks and Recreation Department upgrades need to be completed at the fairgrounds and other city-owned facilities.

To help pay for those projects after next year, the city will receive $3.1 million in accelerated state aid through the state’s new “spin-up” program. That work would include parking lot improvements, additions for restrooms and a Zamboni and masonry work at Thompson Park.

The $53 million tentative budget includes a 2 percent increase in the tax levy, or amount to be raised by taxes, to about $7.4 million. The projected tax rate is $7.282, or a little less than a penny increase per $1,000 of assessed value.

The council scheduled the next budget session for 6 p.m. May 14. A public hearing on the budget has been scheduled for 7:30 p.m. May 7. The fiscal year begins July 1.

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