Vets Park Plans

This early design from HUNT-AES shows the potential look of Veterans Memorial Park if it undergoes a renovation project by the Salamanca City Central School District. District residents will have the opportunity to vote on the project May 21.

SALAMANCA — The plans for a referendum proposing a new facilities project in the Salamanca City Central School District, specifically targeting athletic facilities, took another step last week with a presentation during the Board of Education meeting.

District residents could have the opportunity to vote on a referendum authorizing the project on May 21 during the school district’s budget and school board votes.

“This is something that has been ongoing since early last spring to get us to this point,” said District Superintendent Robert Breidenstein.

The school board is expected to vote March 26 to approve the scope and dollar amount of the project.

The project — which would see work done at Veterans Memorial Park, the Seneca Intermediate and high school campus, Prospect Elementary School and the bus garage — have early estimates predicting a $34.5 million cost.

According to district officials, the project would be completely paid for with monies already in reserve, expected federal aid and through bonding with no amount needed from the community.

“Don’t forget: this plan doesn’t raise taxes,” said Theresa Ray, school board president. “Yes, it looks like a lot of money being pumped into these plans, but we’ve done it being fiscally responsible knowing the community doesn’t want taxes increased. Taxes will not be increased.”

After approval to lease Vets Park from the city in December, Breidenstein said the district held several meetings with various focus groups containing students, athletes, school employees, community members and city and Seneca Nation officials to see what improvements were wanted at Vets Park and other district facilities.

“The undercurrent here that has gone through this entire process is what do we think, from input from the community, where will the community support future projects, both this project and projects years down the road,” he said.

Breidenstein said conversations also included what could be done economically to leverage existing financial needs and statuses and the likelihood of return on investments in a project.

JEFF ROBBINS, architect from HUNT-AES, went through each site during last week’s meeting, highlighting where the renovations or additions would be.

At Vets Park, some trees would be removed at the north end of the park to make room for a relocated multipurpose field for football and lacrosse and practice fields, which would allow for a full baseball field that doesn’t bleed onto the foo field, Robbins said. This way, baseball, lacrosse and one other practice could be held at the same time.

At the multipurpose field would be new bleacher stadium seating with a football team room, concessions and restrooms located underneath and a new press box. An existing structure near the baseball field could also be renovated if it isn’t demolished, Robbins said.

Around the facilities would be a new driveway west between Broad Street and Front Avenue, two new parking lots and handicap parking near the field, a walking trail east of the fields and new playground area, Robbins said, pending acquiring property from neighboring lots.

At the main high school and Seneca Intermediate campus, a redone track and field area would see an eight-lane track with a regulation sized soccer field inside, Robbins said. Additional parking off Fern Avenue southwest of the track and field would also be added.

“One of the consistent themes we’ve come across in every focus group is to be able to use these facilities for economic development and revitalization,” Breidenstein said. “We’ve had conversations with other institutions … to host sectional or collegiate play.”

And addition to the parking garage and new parking next to it would relocate the tennis courts, which would be increased to five courts, east of the high school next to Iroquois Drive. Several rooms inside the high school and Seneca would also be renovated and repurposed.

At Prospect Elementary, a new north wing connecting the middle and east wings would be built and allow for five new educational spaces for the school.

IN ALL, ABOUT $12.8 million would be spent at Vets Park, about $6 at Prospect, about $12 million at the high school and Seneca campus and $2.5 million at the bus garage.

Karen Magara, assistant superintendent for business and finance, said the district has been saving Impact Aid that comes in annually. But because the district hasn’t spent as much as comes in, enough has accumulated over the years to have a large enough reserve of cash in hand, which is how a majority of the project would be paid for.

“If you remember about a year ago, we had the state comptroller’s report and they slapped us on the hand for having a greater than 4 percent fund balance, which we’ve had for years,” she said. “This is one method to utilize cash we have on hand that we need to spend, according the the state comptroller.”

“Taxes aren’t going up and this doesn’t impact anybody in the community financially,” said board member Kerry John. “It’s money that we already have, aside from the money we’re going to do through bonding, and it benefits the entire community.”

If the school board approves the scope and dollar amount March 26, there will be a couple months of fine tuning the project further before district residents have an opportunity to vote on it May 21.

(Contact managing editor Kellen Quigley at kquigleysp@gmail.com)