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posted: 4/15/2013 10:10 PM

Batavia won't reconsider spending $117,000 for decorative arch

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  • Protesters picketed April 1 at the River Street site where Batavia plans to install a decorative arch that may cost up to $117,000. The city council Monday refused to reconsider its vote on the matter.

       Protesters picketed April 1 at the River Street site where Batavia plans to install a decorative arch that may cost up to $117,000. The city council Monday refused to reconsider its vote on the matter.
    Elena Ferrarin | Staff Photographer


Batavia is still going to spend up to $117,000 on an entry arch for North River Street, despite criticism from some residents over the cost and the design.

Alderman Dan Chanzit Monday night asked the council to reconsider its April 1 vote approving the contract for the wood-and-metal artwork.

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"It just feels right in my heart," he said. Chanzit was one of 12 aldermen who had voted in favor of the arch.

But the reconsideration was not voted on, as the city's attorney said the parliamentary procedure rules Batavia follows prohibt reconsideration of a contract that has been at least partially executed. A motion by Alderman Victor Dietz to suspend those rules for this specific matter failed, with 10 alderman voting against it, three for it and one absent.

Chanzit met with protesters April 6 when they picketed where the arch is to be installed, at the Wilson Street intersection. Some questioned the appropriateness of spending property taxes on the arch, even if the money being used comes from taxes levied just on downtown properties. The arch is part of the city's streetscape improvement plan, meant to attract businesses and shoppers to the downtown. Protest organizer Sylvia Keppel said that the costs are passed on to customers of those businesses.

Alderman Alan Wolff adamantly opposed the suspension of the rules, and reconsidering the arch. "I think this is the slipperiest of slopes we're standing on the corner of right now," he said. In his 10 years on the council, "we have never backed off the vote we have taken when the 14 of us have made a decision." As for the design, there are always people who don't like the council's choices, including the design for the two fire stations it built in recent years, he said.

He said photos of the arch design were posted on the city website for almost a year, and that the streetscape plans have been extensively discussed by city council committees.

"I am sorry that some people have not paid attention to what is going on in their city government," he said, and noted the low voter turnout for last Tuesday's election.

Resident Yvonne Dinwiddie, an avid watcher of local governments, took exception. People are too busy working to attend committee meetings where the majority of discussion on issues takes place, she said.

"I did vote, and I have kept track of this, and I have stood in front of this council and complained about the bricks (pavement) and some of the other things going on (with the streetscape)," she said.

And alderman-elect Steve Vasilion said new information about the increased cost had not been posted in conjunction with the design until recently.

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