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Massena extends parking lot lease for five years

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MASSENA - The village will maintain a privately owned downtown parking lot for the next five years much like it has for the last 35.

The village Board of Trustees voted 4-0 Tuesday night, with Patricia K. “Trish” Wilson absent, to approve a new five-year maintenance lease for the downtown lot behind storefronts at Main and Andrews Streets.

Mayor James F. Hidy said the new agreement is much like the old one. The village will continue plowing and sanding the lot, as well as repairing potholes through 2017. It will be up to the property owners to repave it.

“Whatever we’re doing now, we’re going to continue to do,” Mr. Hidy said. “If you want it resurfaced or repaved, that’s not going to happen.”

The village had been maintaining the lot since 1967, and the public has been able to use it for that period. Earlier this year, the village informed the owners of Clopman’s Furniture, the World Class Gym & Fitness Center, Auggie’s Speedway Inn and the vacant Massena School of Business Building it would stop maintaining the lot and free itself of that liability.

The parking lot owners balked at that plan. Some planned to restrict access or shut the lot down if the village stopped maintaining it because of their own liability concerns. The village board then went back to the drawing board and mulled several options.

“Obviously, this has been a bone of contention with everybody,” Mr. Hidy said Tuesday night. “I thought about it probably every waking moment ... I’ve spoken with a number of people.”

Mr. Hidy, Ms. Wilson and Trustee Timothy J. Ahlfeld previously wanted to terminate the maintenance lease. Trustees Francis J. Carvel and Albert C. “Herb” Deshaies wanted the agreement to be left unchanged. Mr. Hidy declined comment on why he changed his mind, while Mr. Ahlfeld said he did so for a couple of reasons.

Mr. Ahlfeld previously wanted to purchase the lot for $1. He did not initially know the Massena Volunteer Fire Department, which is adjacent to the parking lot, used a portion of it. He also did not know one of the properties was mortgaged, making it difficult for the village to purchase that portion of the lot.

“You could call it flip-flopping. You could call it whatever you want,” Mr. Ahlfeld said.

He hoped the village could still purchase the lot at some point. Future village leaders will be wondering why the current board decided to keep a maintenance lease going, he said.

“I think eventually the best thing that could happen is that property could be sold for a dollar,” he said.

The village may still have liability concerns at the lot going forward, Mr. Hidy said. He deferred comment on the lot’s liability to the village attorney, who was absent Tuesday evening.

“In today’s society, if anybody is going to fall, they’re going to go after anybody they possibly can,” Mr. Hidy said.

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