ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) - State and county leaders got into a huddle Friday to discuss the Buffalo Bills lease, but the meeting was kept tightly under wraps.
When we got a hold of Erie County Mark Poloncarz, it was clear he was not in the mood to talk about stadium lease negotiations with the Bills.
"Today we're here to talk about baseball. I'm very pleased that the Bluejays and the Bisons inked this latest deal. We're not going to talk about football," Poloncarz said.
But lease negotiations and the future of the Bills is on the mind of a lot of people, especially since the team seeking about $200 million in renovations to the county-owned stadium using taxpayer funds.
Poloncarz noted, "You can't negotiate in public. It's as simple as that."
The lion's share of the money would come from the state. News 4 spoke to Sam Hoyt of the Empire State Development Corporation on Friday.
He said, "The Bills are not going to be given a blank check. We want a strong guarantee that the Bills will remain in western New York long into the future."
And we brought concerns over the discussions to U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, who added, "If making them public makes it harder to come to a deal, you shouldn't make them public. If making them public makes it easier to come to a deal, yu should make them public. I'm not familiar enough with all the details to know."
Poloncarz says he understands the public wants to know, but says he won't reveal any specifics.
He said, "If I was advising a client when I was practicing law, if you're negotiating a business transaction with somebody else, you wouldn't go to the media and say..."
And though Poloncarz agreed he represents the public and this is public money on the line, "You cannot negotiate a very intense transaction by announcing everything that's going on in front of the media."
Does this deal make financial sense? According to Bruce Fisher, a former top county official who is now with the economics department at Buffalo State College, says it's a bad return on the public's investment.
"It's a hand out to a foreign-owned corporation. It doesn't bring new economic activity to western New York. $200 million into any other investment, whether it's a road or a hospital or library system, that's a full year's worth of the Erie County Property Tax," Fisher argued.
On Friday, Lieutenant Governor Bob Duffy and Deputy County Executive Rich Tobe released this statement regarding the secret meeting:
"Today representatives from New York State and the Erie County Executive's Office had a very productive meeting on their joint efforts to keep the Bills in Buffalo. Both the State and County are lockstep in their commitment to keeping the Bills in Buffalo and we will continue to refrain from negotiating through the press."
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