LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WIVB) - Dr. Scott Geise, the former Newfane dentist who served time for tax fraud, has applied to receive almost $80,000 in tax breaks to renovate and reopen Old City Hall in Lockport.
The Niagara County Industrial Development Agency voted Wednesday to grant Dr. Geise's application for a five-year tax exemption on the historic building, which Geise owns. The building's been mostly empty for more than a decade.
Dr. Geise is also a convicted felon. He was sentenced to 15 months in prison for filing a false health care claim and tax return in 2010. He's making a new life now, for himself and for this building. And though it may seem odd to give a man who cheated on his taxes a tax exemption, News 4 found no major opposition to this move. Most residents are happy to see the building returning to use.
"Really, the building was falling into disrepair. When I bought the building [in 2005], I immediately put a roof on," Dr. Geise said. "They know it's important to the city in the long run, so everybody's on board. Everybody knows this importance of keeping this building functioning."
The tax breaks would help restore the main floor of Old City Hall. Geise is leasing that floor to businesswoman Jacqueline Connelly, who will open "Flight of Five Winery" there this spring.
Blackman said, "The idea of "The Flight of Five" is great for offering wine and food pairings... offering food and things like that for the tourists."
"Flight of Five" - named after a series of locks on the Erie Canal - will become a new stop on the Niagara Wine Trail. Geise hopes to lure tourists and residents alike with its historical theme.
"Each of these display boxes is going to show different parts of Lockport history, Erie Canal history. We want to kind of take everyone back to 1800s, 1850s, 1860s," Geise said.
Blackman said, "...To educate locals on the history. This was just such a great mecca for bringing people up and through this area, and settling this area."
And Geise noted, "There's really no place like that right now, in Lockport. And being this close to the canal, and having this kind of vantage point over the canal, this is the location to do it."
Geise calls the tax help a "massive" step forward for the project. Eventually, he wants to re purpose all four floors of Old City Hall.
There will be a public hearing on this, coming up March 5.
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