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Lewis County bowling alley suit can roll forward

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LOWVILLE — The owners of Lewis Lanes LLC have initially rolled a baby split in their lawsuit asking a court to uphold the sale of their building to Lewis County.

A $1 million purchase agreement was approved by Lewis County legislators in a 6-4 vote Oct. 28. It was then rescinded eight days later when two legislators changed their minds, despite a filing by the bowling alley owners, the day before, for a temporary restraining order to prevent legislators from taking action to renege on the contract before the court could hear the petition.

State Supreme Court Judge Hugh A. Gilbert, in a five-page decision filed Tuesday in the Lewis County clerk’s office, denied a county request to dismiss the case but required that it proceed in a different form.

The suit was filed as an Article 78 proceeding, intended to challenge the action of a governmental body.

Judge Gilbert ruled that the remedy sought “is not suited for an Article 78 proceeding” but disagreed with the county’s contention that the case should be thrown out because of the improper form.

“Rather, the proceeding must be converted to an action at law so that the Court can address the parties’ claims,” he wrote. “Although there are instances where the Court can both convert the matter and address the merits, we decline to do both at this juncture.”

The decision authorized that conversion, allowing the bowling alley to amend its action “to assert the specific grounds and requests for relief.”

“After the pleadings are served, including the County’s answer, either party may move for appropriate relief,” Judge Gilbert added.

Judge Gilbert also denied the temporary restraining order.

When asked Wednesday about possible outcomes in the case, county attorney Richard J. Graham said that he “couldn’t begin to speculate, because the next move is the plaintiff’s.”

Legislator Philip C. Hathway, R-Harrisville, was in favor of buying the property when the board voted originally for its purchase.

He also voted against rescinding the purchase offer.

“I wanted the bowling alley purchase, but when the board rescinded, I had to support my board,” he said Wednesday morning.

Of the four returning legislators, just Jerry R. King, R-West Leyden, was opposed to the initial purchase agreement.

Now, with the new Legislature in office, six new legislators are faced with legal ramifications of a decision they didn’t make.

Neil H. Pepper, R-Brantingham, said, “We’re discussing our options now, due to the judge’s ruling.”

Mr. Pepper said, “within a week or two,” the board should make a decision about how to proceed.

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