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Lewis County Legislature votes to purchase Lowville bowling alley


LOWVILLE — Lowville, the only manufacturing site for wooden bowling pins in the U.S., won’t have a bowling alley after April, following Monday’s decision by Lewis County legislators to purchase Lewis Lanes for $1 million and convert the building to office space.

The same legislators who voted in favor of the outer Stowe Street building, Jack T. Bush, Jerry H. King, Richard C. Lucas and Patrick Wallace, were opposed to the bowling alley purchase, resulting in a 6-4 split.

The opportunity arose to purchase the 16,640-square-foot building after the board’s Oct. 9 decision to not build a new county building on outer Stowe Street.

Bowling alley owners Richard E. and Derek Crouse contacted legislators, offering their building for sale.

“It’s a perfect location,” Rick Crouse said after learning about the vote. In a statement released by legislators, Rick Crouse said, “It takes long hours to operate the business and I plan to retire in the next couple of years to spend more time with my family.”

He said they planned to offer the business for sale next spring, but realized the difficulty of selling an established million-dollar business.

“It would be difficult for a future owner to realize a profit with the operating costs and mortgage. It takes a lot of three-dollar games to cover the overhead and expense,” he said.

Lewis County Real Property records list the property as assessed for $652,200 full market value.

D.G.M. Coon & Co., Watertown, will conduct an appraisal, which Chairman Michael A. Tabolt, R-Croghan, suspected would come in at more than $1.1 million.

“We’ve done some preliminary research and that’s what we’re being told,” he said.

After the board’s decision to not build a new county building on outer Stowe Street, legislators met with the sellers of the Lowville Commons building, where the Office for the Aging and Board of Elections now lease space.

That 18,000-square-foot building, also for sale for $1 million, was considered for purchase, but according to Mr. Tabolt, needs much renovation.

The bowling alley was rebuilt in 2009 after it was destroyed by fire.

The new building, which sits on a 2-acre parcel, offers a large parking area. The large empty space on a single floor will be easier and less expensive to convert to meet the needs of the offices that will be relocated there.

“It’s all new — new wiring, new heat, new air conditioning. It’s going to fit all our needs and we can do it cheaper than we could have at the Commons,” said Legislator Paul M. Stanford, D-Watson.

Along with the Office for the Aging and Board of Elections, the county’s Department of Motor Vehicles will be moved to the new site.

Legislators will contract with Bernier, Carr & Associates, Watertown, to develop plans for the building. A credit of approximately $25,000 remains due to the county from the approximately $800,000 spent on plans for the outer Stowe Street project.

The county’s Department of Social Services will remain in the county’s outer Stowe Street building.

This is a problem for Mr. King, who voiced concerns following the meeting about the lack of saving in purchasing a second building instead of combining all services in one.

“I can’t support this knowing all we are doing is kicking the can down the road,” Mr. King said. “There’s going to be no savings to the taxpayers now that we’ll have two buildings to maintain.”

He also noted the location on outer Stowe Street would have given legislators options for future savings. The land there, he said, was suited for future windmill or wood chip projects.

“I was looking toward the future,” he said. “When this is all said and done, it’s only going to amount to $2 million less than the new building would have cost and we’ve ruled out these future projects.”

The Crouses have indicated they will close the lanes after league bowling ends April 29. In addition to family members, the business employs seven people.

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