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updated: 4/6/2013 4:10 PM

Batavia residents protest downtown entry arch

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  • Batavia resident Carl Dinwiddie, right, was among about 15 people who protested on Saturday the April 1 decision by the Batavia City Council to spend as much as $117,000 on an entry arch for North River Street at the intersection with Wilson Street in downtown Batavia.

       Batavia resident Carl Dinwiddie, right, was among about 15 people who protested on Saturday the April 1 decision by the Batavia City Council to spend as much as $117,000 on an entry arch for North River Street at the intersection with Wilson Street in downtown Batavia.
    Elena Ferrarin | Staff Photographer

  • Sisters Grace Keppel, 16, left, and Elizabeth Keppel, 13, of Batavia were among about 15 people who protested on Saturday the April 1 decision by the Batavia City Council to spend as much as $117,000 on an entry arch for North River Street at the intersection with Wilson Street in downtown Batavia.

       Sisters Grace Keppel, 16, left, and Elizabeth Keppel, 13, of Batavia were among about 15 people who protested on Saturday the April 1 decision by the Batavia City Council to spend as much as $117,000 on an entry arch for North River Street at the intersection with Wilson Street in downtown Batavia.
    Elena Ferrarin | Staff Photographer

  • Sisters Grace Keppel, 16, left, and Elizabeth Keppel, 13, of Batavia were among about 15 people who protested on Saturday the April 1 decision by the Batavia City Council to spend as much as $117,000 on an entry arch for North River Street at the intersection with Wilson Street in downtown Batavia.

       Sisters Grace Keppel, 16, left, and Elizabeth Keppel, 13, of Batavia were among about 15 people who protested on Saturday the April 1 decision by the Batavia City Council to spend as much as $117,000 on an entry arch for North River Street at the intersection with Wilson Street in downtown Batavia.
    Elena Ferrarin | Staff Photographer

 
 

A Batavia alderman said he plans to ask the city council to reconsider a recent decision to build an entry arch downtown after an outpouring of criticism from residents.

About 15 people gathered Saturday in downtown Batavia to protest the April 1 decision by the Batavia City Council to spend as much as $117,000 on an entry arch for North River Street at the intersection with Wilson Street.

The project will be funded by tax-increment financing money, and it will finish a streetscape project that included removing curbs and creating bricked space for cars and pedestrians along River Street.

Batavia resident Sylvia Keppel, one of the main organizers of the protest, said the arch is unnecessary -- and unattractive.

"I call it 'a halo on Popsicle sticks'," she said of the arch's design. "It's ugly. It's hideous."

The city should make better use of TIF funds, Keppel said. Those funds come from property taxes within the TIF district, and must be used for improvements within the district.

"Even though the TIF taxes come from businesses, the businesses have to pass on that cost to the customers, so it's all of our money," she said.

Bill Fox, who held a sign saying "Wake up, taxpayers," said the city should do away with the TIF district altogether.

"Batavia politicians ... spend money like water," Fox said. "Like all of us, they have to adjust their budget in times of economic crisis."

Alderman Dan Chanzit, who voted in favor of the project, went to the protest downtown to talk to residents. He will propose a recall vote at the next city council meeting on April 15, he said.

Only two of 14 aldermen -- Susan Stark and Victor Dietz -- last week voted against the contract for $93,960 to WW Timber. The city has already spent $9,136 for design work and foundation installation. It expects to spend $10,000 to $15,000 on lighting.

Chanzit said he had no idea people would react so negatively to it.

"In three years, this is the only vote I regretted," Chanzit said. "I voted by my conscience, but instead I should have voted by my constituents."

One resident spoke against the arch at last week's council meeting. Otherwise, there were no comments during the months-long process of selecting the arch's design, which included discussions by the community development committee, Chanzit said.

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