Breaking With the PBA
by Geoff Kelly - posted 4:59 pm, June 3, 2008
Crystal Beach’s The Strand reports on a setback for the Public Bridge Authority on the other side of the US-Canadian border:
Reliable sources report to The Strand that the proposed lease by the town of the Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority-owned Mentholatum Building is off the table and the building will be put up for sale.
According to the same sources, a threatened lawsuit by a Jarvis Street business owner as well as the taint of possible conflict of interest has given the PBA pause; the offer of a five year lease at $1.00 per year is canceled.
The outcry from citizens when the lease proposal was announced was not anticipated by either PBA or town officials. The past practice in such interactions between the PBA and the town often went unnoticed. This deal however, brought forth the ire and concern of many citizens and a lawsuit was in the works. Since the mayor has recently proved he is adept at cost overruns (see NRP Headquaters SNAFU,) the refurbishment of the Mentholatum Building was expected to cost close to $2 million. The charity groups that were slated to use the building will have to stay put as the building will now go up for sale.
Many will take comfort in knowing that the public exposure of the lease/sweetheart deal may well have caused its demise, but the PBA stranglehold on the town through its puppet mayor is a long way from being eliminated. The reason the Mentholatum Building was bought in the first place by the PBA was to thwart the plans of the Ambassador Niagara bridge project. Those plans were to build an international bridge on the International Railroad property. The abandoned Mentholatum building backs on to the IRR land. Once the building was bought, the PBA had no real use for it; it was just a strategic acquisition, so why not seal the deal with the town and make it an offer it can’t refuse? Far be it for Doug Martin to refuse a “gift” from his number one supporters, so the town went ahead and took the bait, despite the obvious signs of conflict and pandering – not to mention that the PBA exceeded its mandate by purchasing property that was not to be used for Peace Bridge purposes. (The PBA’s past practice of “donating” to various causes and charities has also come under scrutiny to the point that it has been banned from certain “gifts” to groups.)
Well, this particular sweetheart deal was thwarted, perhaps by the threatened lawsuit; perhaps by the state of the building; perhaps because it will cost hundred of thousands of dollars to make it environmentally sound; perhaps because the deal would open a whole can of worms regarding the inappropriate relationship between the PBA and certain town officials and perhaps it was just that the good people of Fort Erie finally caught a break. While the various charities will have to “pay” rent where they are now located, the taxpayers of Fort Erie were just saved a world of trouble and higher taxes. Schadenfreude. It’s a beautiful word.