Public Dissent

BUSTI- Busti residents will now have a chance to express their opinions on the sale of their town hall at 121 Chautauqua Ave. through a public vote.

On Tuesday afternoon, Cara Birrittieri, of Lakewood, and Samuel Whitmore, owner of Bag and Strings Wine Merchants, presented more than 200 signatures collected over the course of a month to Busti’s clerk, Darlene Nygren. This upcoming referendum is a result of Busti’s proposed sale of its current town hall at 121 Chautauqua Ave. and purchase of the former Tordella’s building at 125 Chautauqua Ave. The town in recent months was approached by the Jamestown Area Community Federal Credit Union, which has an expired lease on its current location. The credit union has offered $300,000 for Busti’s current town hall. Due to their expired lease, the credit union is under some urgency to move, and the offer is not open-ended.

While there was support for the sale of the current town hall, voices of dissent rose when it came to the purchase of 125 Chautauqua Ave. The more popular arguments revolved around the potential for Busti to move into Lakewood’s Anthony C. Caprino Municipal Building and outcry over taking another building off the tax roll just as one was put back on – especially when Whitmore had expressed interest in purchasing the building.

Supporters of the town board’s decision countered by pointing out the move into Tordella’s was the most cost-effective option and saying that the town shouldn’t put money into a building it doesn’t own – especially when the village hall is not handicap-accessible.

Due to legal matters, the public referendum cannot be on the purchase of Tordella’s, but is allowed on the sale – on which the purchase is contingent. Acting upon this, those who are against Busti’s decision had 30 days to collect 150 signatures to force a special election. However, it should be noted, Busti has the ability to close the contingency in the contract of the purchase at 125 Chautauqua Ave.

“Like any real estate contract, the buyer can always remove the contingency,” said Joel Seachrist, town attorney. “So, if we chose to go forward with the purchase of that building, we can do that using surplus funds. (The current town hall) would still be up in the air on whether people would want to sell it.”

Even if the referendum votes against the sale, the town will be able to make a motion to sell the building again the very next day. There is no limit on how many times they can do this.

Busti officials were unable to comment on a date for the special election Tuesday.

The board had previously presented estimates for four possible town hall options.

The first was to construct a single-floor addition behind Lakewood’s Anthony C. Caprino Municipal Building, which would include a court and office but not a recreation center.

The second option was renovating the second floor of the Caprino building, including an entrance lobby, a stair tower, an elevator and sprinkler system – which also wouldn’t have a community building.

The third option was tearing down the Recreational Center to build one building for Lakewood and Busti excluding a court.

The final option was purchasing the Tordella’s building – which would include the Recreation Center, plus space to grow.