Today is the long awaited deadline, when the Olmsted Parks Conservancy is supposed to receive a term sheet from the City of Buffalo that will tell their fate for the coming year. But when Chair of the Board of Directors for the Olmsted Parks Conservancy David Colligan, called the office of Buffalo Corporation Counsel Brendan Mahaffey, he was told that Mahaffey is in Ireland and can’t be reached.
These new terms between the City and the Olmsted Parks Conservancy come into question as the City accepts control of the Olmsted Parks this December 31st from the County of Erie, as proposed nearly two years ago by County Executive Chris Collins.
“It was supposed to be a signed deal today,” Colligan says. “Mahaffey is the guy who’s been working on this. The person who would have struck the deal is gone.” In addition, Colligan says he wrote to Deputy Mayor Steven Casey two days ago and hasn’t heard back from him either. [update: Casey called Colligan back and said the City still is not decided whether the Olmsted Conservancy would be managing the Olmsted Parks at all.]
Colligan says that this coming Tuesday’s conservancy meeting will likely take on the topic of who will lose their job first, with no commitment from the City in regard to funding. “The way we’ll deal with this – it will be vetted before the executive committee and the board, and we’ll look at the $175,000 per month that it takes to run the conservancy, and realize we can’t take on the responsibility without contractual support. Then, because it’s our duty not to incur unreasonable expenses and things we can’t afford, people will lose their jobs.”
Colligan explains that the maintenance money goes toward basic expenditures like grass cutting and snow and garbage removal, while advocacy dollars spent bring in money through grants, fundraising, and communications with members. Maintenance provides the visuals where the parks are concerned, but the core advocacy group forms the backbone that keeps the park’s visibility high on a grand scale. The conservancy is only seeking reimbursement of the maintenance dollars.
“We’ll meet and decide how to approach this,” Colligan says, “but as of January 1st, with no commitment from the City, we’ll have to lay people off. And we’ll have to tell them that we have no choice.”
When asked for comment, Byron Brown Spokesman Peter Cutler responded in an email saying, “Talks continue to move forward.”