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Mayor: let the comptroller rule on Maggie’s deck

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The city is waiting for the state comptroller’s office to advise it whether patrons of Maggie’s on the River can be served food and alcohol on the city-owned deck overlooking the Black River.

Last week, Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham sent letters to state Comptroller Thomas P. DiNapoli and the regional comptroller’s office to get a ruling on whether the city can lease the deck to the owners of Maggie’s for use by the Newell Street bar and restaurant.

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

Three weeks ago, the matter came up again before the Watertown City Council when Maggie’s co-owner Reginald J. Schweitzer Jr. made the request again.

But city attorney Robert J. Slye sent an email July 12 to council members advising against the lease until the comptroller’s office gives an opinion on its legality. Mr. Slye compared the deck to leasing a city to an entity.

Last week, council members Teresa R. Macaluso, Joseph M. Butler and Jeffrey M. Smith urged the mayor to get the state comptroller’s opinion about it.

“It’s been in lawyer never-never land and I want to get it out of there,” Mr. Graham said. “It’s been dragging along for far too long.”

Mr. Schweitzer, who could not be reached for comment Friday afternoon, has applied for a temporary permit from the state Liquor Authority to serve alcohol on the deck until a more permanent solution can be found, city officials said. If the comptroller gets back to city officials, the matter may come up at the Aug. 5 council meeting.

In the meantime, Councilwoman Roxanne M. Burns said Friday that Maggie’s is the only logical user of the deck, since it is connected to the building. Although the city was wrong to pursue the construction of the deck with public funding because of that situation, the issue should finally be resolved, she said.

Ms. Macaluso said that the city should play it carefully and that she wants to make sure the city is not forced to pay back the state grant money.

“I just don’t want us to go out on a wing and prayer and find out we’re wrong,” she said.

Ms. Burns said she doesn’t see the comptroller coming after the city over the issue.

“I can’t believe the comptroller doesn’t have bigger fish to fry than little old Watertown,” she said.

State Department of State officials have expressed reservations about Maggie’s owners using the deck, saying the restaurant would infringe on the use of the park and the deck, which was designed as a walkway.

The state Liquor Authority also must approve the restaurant’s permanent application to serve alcohol on the deck.

Last year, the Department of State ruled that the only way Maggie’s could use the deck is if the city bought the tables. It would have cost about $1,200 each for two or three tables; the city then would have to rent the tables to the business.

At the time, both city officials and Maggie’s owners expressed their frustrations about the state’s logic.

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