Formality Slows Sale Of Busti Town Hall

BUSTI- The Busti Town Hall will not be sold without a fight from local residents. That was made clear during a special meeting Monday morning regarding the proposed sale of the current town hall to the Jamestown Area Federal Credit Union.

The Busti board adopted a new resolution concerning the sale of the building which included a State Environment Quality Review, a previous point of contention among some town residents. A SEQR was not submitted the first time the town passed the resolution to sell the building.

Joel Seachrist, attorney for the town, explained the new resolution would start the entire process again from scratch. The credit union wanted the board to move quickly so they can possibly move into the current town hall by June 1. This would mean the residents of Busti and Lakewood would be able to gather signatures again, if they so choose, to bring the sale of the building to a vote.

Cara Birrittieri, spokesperson for Citizens for Better Government, a group of concerned Busti residents, said it seems to her if they have to start this process over, it wasn’t done properly from the beginning.

“Now you are telling us, if we want to, we can start collecting more signatures,” she said. “I am all for that if that is what it takes to inform the board that the people in this town wish to have full disclosure, full transparency of all transactions and when people show up in droves, they listen to the people who put them in office.”

Birrittieri also said the public was not given sufficient notice of the meeting. She said a week was needed for a prior notice, and alleged the only notice given was in Monday’s paper. Seachrist said when a town board meeting is scheduled less than a week in advance – and in this case, this meeting was scheduled Friday – the only obligation the town has under the public meetings law is to give notice to the media to the extent practical and post notices around town.

“In this case, on Friday we gave notice to the newspaper and the radio station. We also posted notices at four spots around town,” Seachrist said before challenging Birrittieri to point out the clause in the law which required the town board to provide a week notice. “That is the only notice required for public meetings. There is no violation.”

Seachrist said people have a 30 day period to gather signatures and the credit union would like to be in the building by June 1, and if Busti acts today, they have literally one day to prepare the current town hall in advance.

Larry Muntz, a member on the board of directors for the Jamestown Area Federal Credit Union, said he thinks the project is great for Lakewood.

“I think it would bring a lot of businesses here and it would put (town hall) back into what it was originally built for,” Muntz said. “At this time, I hope we can move on and get in here and be a good neighbor to you.”

David DiSalvo, Lakewood trustee, said when this project began a few months ago, nobody said it was a horrible idea. He said people thought there were alternatives that needed to be properly fleshed out.

“It shouldn’t be a village and town divisive issue. It should be an issue where everybody wants to work together,” DiSalvo said. “… Mr. Supervisor, you said you’ve been working on this for a whole year. It would have been nice if you shared this with the rest of us while this was going on. It’s not a nasty comment. It’s not meant to be. What I’m saying, in the future, regardless what happens with this, I think this clearly points to a problem that kind of undermines anything good we are trying to do. The appearance is in propriety – we are trying to pull a fast one. Even if that isn’t the case, that is what the appearance is.”

Richard Thor, Busti councilman, said the residents of the village asked the town board to delay the process in January, so that other viable options could be considered – which Busti did.

“Three months, 90 days, have gone by and the people who have opposed the purchase of the sale have not come up with another viable option. All the energy has been spent to oppose the purchase and the sale – specifically the sale of the bank to the credit union,” Thor said. “… We have not done this to drive a wedge between the town and the village. We have done what we feel is best for the community, and still feel it’s best for the community.”

Lawton suggested that the town board makes an ad hoc committee to discuss other options.

The committee would look at all the options, see if the old Tordella’s Surfaces building which the town has purchased, is something the town stays and invests in or if the town should put it on the market. The understanding would be that there would still be some renovations – namely getting the court out of its location at the village hall- and that looking into options could take a while.

“It has to be done with the understanding that we’ll get moved out of the bank, we’ll move the court room over with minimal investment to the front retail half until it is determined what the best option is,” Thor said.

The idea of the ad hoc committee was widely received by everyone at the meeting, and the board passed a resolution to create one.

The board also passed a resolution to approve the SEQR negative declaration – with only Lawton voting against it before the presentation of his ad hoc idea – and a unanimous passing of the sale of 121 Chautauqua Ave. for $300,000 to the Jamestown Federal Credit Union.