State will ease restrictions on Maranatha $


By Patsy Nicosia

The state has offered to loosen its grip on the shuttered Maranatha Family Center.
The gym has been closed since September, when owner Stella McKenna ran out of money; efforts by investor Da-lai Wu to reopen it stalled out in part because of restrictions linked to the $2.3 million Restore NY grant that helped build it.
But Thursday, JR Parshall, attorney for the Town of Richmondville, said the state's willing to waive the two biggest roadblocks.
Mr. Parshall said the state is willing to forego its rule that Ms. McKenna not sell, lease, or rent the building for the first five years, something he pointed out will allow Mr. Wu-or anyone else-to become a partner.
More importantly, he said, the state is willing to waive it's right to recoup or "recapture" the grant money from the town-which received the Restore NY grant and then turned it over to Ms. McKenna-for her failure to live up to the grant's requirements.
Town officials had baulked at granting Mr. Wu's request to become an equity partner in the gym, afraid the state would come after them for part of the $2.3 million.
"The state said they'd be okay with the waivers if we asked for them," Mr. Parshall told Supervisor Dick Lape and councilmen, who wasted no time in passing a resolution to seek the waivers.
Other Maranatha issues include another, smaller grant, that was tied into hiring requirements.
Maranatha didn't meet those numbers, but Mr. Parshall said consultant Nick Zabawsky from Orion Management feels they're close enough.
That grant, however, won't be affected by the state waivers.
The town still needs to complete an audit of the project at an estimated cost of $20,000, money it hoped to get from Ms. McKenna but something that's seeming more and more unlikely.
If the audit's not done, Mr. Parshall said "it could give us a black eye for future grants."
The state has expressed concerns about the winterization of the building, but that's been addressed, Mr. Parshall said, adding, "The state has an immediate interest in seeing that facility opening up again."