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Mayor Graham: City of Watertown should not spend more money on Maggie’s deck

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WATERTOWN — Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham isn’t sure it’s a good idea to spend more money on the deck at Maggie’s on the River.

At Monday night’s City Council meeting, Mr. Graham contended that the city should not pay a contractor to fix the city-owned deck, which overlooks the Black River and was damaged by high waters this spring. The deck has been closed since the damage was discovered in mid-April.

Instead, he suggested that the city should find out whether city work crews can make the repairs.

The deck became a source of controversy after the city paid $80,000 to construct it as part of Whitewater Park and Maggie’s asked to use it for its restaurant business.

State funding also was used to construct the deck. In recent years, the state Department of State has expressed reservations about the business’s use of the taxpayer-funded deck, which offers riverfront public access.

Maggie’s owners, who could not be reached for comment on Monday night, have tried to get permission from the state to serve food and alcohol on the deck during the summer.

The city has tried to help persuade the state to allow Maggie’s to use the deck.

But Mr. Graham said both the city and state governments have “looked bad” and incompetent in the way they have handled the situation, wondering how it would be perceived politically if the city paid for the repairs.

After the mayor voiced his frustration, City Attorney Robert J. Slye said his office had been planning to send a letter to the state saying the city is fine with the restaurant using the deck.

“How the state gets so worked up about this is beyond me,” Mr. Graham told the other council members.

City Engineer Kurt W. Hauk had planned to hire a contractor to make the repairs. He hoped it would cost less than the $35,000 threshold requiring the project to be put out to bid. The work would include connecting concrete columns to a wall, so similar damage will not happen in the future, he said.

On Monday, Councilwoman Roxanne M. Burns said several constituents have told her that the city should not spend any more money on the deck.

After the meeting, Mr. Hauk said he plans to talk to City Manager Sharon A. Addison and Public Works Superintendent Eugene P. Hayes about whether city work crews can complete the project.

In the past, Mr. Graham has supported use of the deck by Maggie’s. Last year, he had Dierdre K. Scozzafava, deputy secretary of state for local government and former 122nd District assemblywoman from Gouverneur, look at the deck to consider the situation. She concluded that it made sense for Maggie’s to use the deck.

Critics have said the city should have avoided the issue years ago but has now been put in the position of having to defend itself from accusations that it used state funding to construct a deck for a private business.

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