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Watkins settles lawsuit with former mayor

WATKINS GLEN—A federal lawsuit against the village prompted by harassment charges against a former mayor has been settled for $21,000.
Mayor Judith Phillips said Monday a second civil Leesuit, filed in U.S. District Court, was dismissed.  Both actions were filed following the conviction of former Mayor Robert H. Lee on two counts of second-degree harassment in May 2005.
As part of a plea deal, Lee was fined $500, ordered to write letters of apology to both victims and sentenced to an alcohol rehabilitation program. He also agreed to resign as mayor and police commissioner.
Lee, who had been mayor since 1986, was succeeded as interim mayor by Judith Phillips. She was re-elected in March 2006 to a four-year term.   Phillips said the village insurance company paid the $21,000 settlement. Court documents identified the recipient as Melanie A. Barnes.
A second civil suit against the village by Melissa Morse was dismissed for failure to prosecute, according to court documents.
Both women accused Lee of improper behavior at a semi-public event. The charges to which Lee pleaded guilty were violations—not serious enough to be considered crimes.   He also received a one-year conditional discharge requiring him to obey all laws or face re-sentencing on the harassment charges.
Phillips completed her 20th year of service on the village board April 1. She served as a trustee and deputy mayor before being chosen by the board to replace Lee. She received a round of applause from officials and a large contingent of Boy Scouts from Montour Falls Troop 2000 after the milestone was announced by Trustee Gregory Coon at Monday’s board meeting.
In other action Monday, the board approved an application for a $200,000 grant for building improvements in a targeted section of the village.
Brian Willliams, a grant writer and economic development specialist for the Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development, said the target area tentatively stretches from the Seneca Lake waterfront to Sixth Street, and one block east and west on Fourth Street.
“At this point I have about a dozen interested property owners,” Williams said.
The funds would come from the New York Main Street Grant Program, from which the village received a $200,000 grant in 2006. That money was used in renovation projects for a number of buildings, including the Glen Theater. It was supplemented by $565,000 from private property owners.
The new grant would provide up to $40,000 for first-floor commercial property renovations and up to $20,000 for each residential unit, Williams said.
“Property owners can get $3 for each $1 invested,” he said.
Awards are expected to be announced in the fall. If the application is successful, a selection committee will be formed to choose the local recipients of the funds.
Williams asked the village to contribute an unspecified amount of money over the next three years for administration of the grant. The board made no decision.
A hearing Monday on the Magee Point Landing project at 65 Salt Point Road drew no comment from the public.
The project, for which the village is seeking a $2.5 million state grant, would redevelop the vacant Municipal Light Building to house a restaurant and eight luxury apartments. It has already been approved by the village Planning Board.

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