|By Aaron Besecker, The Buffalo News,
N.Y.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
April 7, 2009 - SANBORN -- The restaurant, kitchen and retail portions of Niagara County Community College's new hospitality and tourism school in downtown Niagara Falls could all be up and running about four months after the school and the owner of a hotel complete a lease agreement.
The problem, though, is that a final lease has not yet been completed, college President James P. Klyczek said Monday after a meeting of the college's board of trustees.
The equipment has been purchased, and contractors have done their pricing, Klyczek said. Some contractors are working on more detailed items, such as the sizing for shelves.
"Once it's signed, everything should roll out almost immediately, in terms of the construction," he said.
College officials say the lease is the only factor preventing the first phase of a $15 million move for their culinary school to a space in the Crowne Plaza Hotel on Third Street in the Falls.
The last remaining issue involves insurance coverage, Klyczek said.
The college is negotiating a lease with NS Partners, a partnership between Namwest, a Phoenix-based developer, and Sentry Hospitality. Namwest has sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, but college officials said they don't believe that the proceeding puts their project at risk.
Because the lease has taken longer than expected to complete, the extra planning time will allow all aspects of the first phase to come out in "one fell swoop." Completion of the restaurant is the top priority, Klyczek said.
In addition to the restaurant and kitchen laboratory, plans also include a deli, wine trail boutique and a retail outlet.
Later phases of the project call for a new classroom and administrative building next to the Crowne Plaza.
Monday, trustees approved three grant applications tied to the culinary institute. They include two member item requests through state legislators -- $250,000 for renovations of the space planned for a bookstore and $100,000 for equipment for the school's bakery and deli -- and a $350,000 request through federal representatives for equipment costs.
"We've been trying to lie low with some of that so we're not competing with ourselves, and trying to secure as much funding as we can," Klyczek said of the grant requests.
In other items discussed Monday:
--In order to close an expected budget deficit, the college is considering raising tuition rates for the 2009-10 school year by 3 percent to 4 percent, Klyczek said.
The tuition increase is far from becoming finalized, and is one of many steps the college is taking to close the budget gap, officials said.
NCCC's budget is part of the overall Niagara County budget. A public hearing on the budget is tentatively scheduled for some time in early June, said Trustee William L. Ross, CWheatfield, who is also chairman of the County Legislature.
--School officials proposing to ban tobacco use on campus are still weighing several issues, including when the ban would go into effect, how it would be enforced and whether tobacco use would be allowed in student housing.
The board could consider the item next month or in June, Klyczek said, adding that a committee handling the issue believes that the most reasonable time to begin the ban would be Jan. 1.
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