Tonawanda News — Residents congregated around the city’s iconic gathering place Wednesday night to celebrate the rededication of the Clinton Park gazebo after years of waiting for the event.
“It is such a nice night, and this is going to set a precedence of using this facility even more,” Mayor Ron Pilozzi said at the event. “We may turn this into a weekly or monthly event.”
Attendees set up their lawn chairs in the park, grabbed a hot dog and listened to music from the River Dog Jazz Band. Most residents came just to enjoy the beautiful night, but for Debbie and Jeff Klein, the newly constructed gazebo is especially meaningful.
“The gazebo is near and dear to us because we were married here 16 years ago,” Debbie said. “It’s a special place to us.”
Debbie and her husband were both saddened to hear of the old gazebo’s collapse in 2010, when it caved in during routine maintenance and injured two workers in the process.
“We were really upset by it,” she said.
Construction on a new gazebo began in the summer of 2011 and it was originally set to be complete in only a few months. But a number of setbacks, including a problem with the structure’s foundation, set the project back.
“The entire base wasn’t solid like we thought it was,” City Engineer Jason LaMonaco said. “So we had to do modifications on the columns and the railings for the project.”
Contractors waited for the ground to freeze to complete some construction on the structure, but didn’t have much luck when the area experienced a warmer than usual winter in 2011. The ground never froze, and workers gave up on the original plans and completed a total restoration of the foundation, pushing the bulk of the structural work to the spring.
The project was further delayed when the city and contractor squabbled over who was responsible for last-minute repairs and painting fixes. But, eventually, the contractor agreed to do the work and the structure was complete in the fall of 2012. The new gazebo is more modern than the old, with steel columns instead of the original wood and a fiber glass shell for appearance purposes.
And although the high cost of the gazebo has been criticized, the final cost of the project, $72,000, was not much higher than the original estimate — $69,000.
Taxpayers shouldered most of the burden for the project, and although a fundraiser did help, it didn’t come up with the kind of funds organizers were hoping for, only raising about $3,000.
The structure has a long history in the public square. It was the first bandstand in the area, constructed in 1900. In the 1920s, the original bandstand was torn down in favor of a larger gazebo, and in the 1970s, it was rebuilt.
Betty Tussing, who has lived in Tonawanda all her life, said she remembers the park in the 1940s, when bands used to frequent the area.
“It was just beautiful, and I’m happy it’s back,” she said.Contact reporter Jessica Bagley at 693-1000 ext. 4150, or follow her on Twitter at @JessicaLBagley