Gowanda residents voice positives toward state’s $2.5 million project

OBSERVER Photo by Andrew David Kuczkowski Attorney Ronald Szot, in back, reads the guideline to the public hearing as Empire State Development’s Western New York Specialist Diego A. Sirianni reads along. All in attendance voiced their positive approval for the use of funds and for it going to Gowanda.

GOWANDA — A public hearing hosted by the New York Empire State Development, or ESD, allowed area residents to voice their opinions on the use of the village of Gowanda’s $2.5 million plan funded by ESD.

ESD Western New York Specialist Diego A. Sirianni was present to listen to the opinions as well as attorney Ronald Szot. All who spoke during the meeting gave positive sentiments to the state, meaning that the money and plans will move forward.

The $2.5 million will be applied toward Zoar Valley Gateway Park, Creekside Park (near Shop’n Save), the Aldrich Street Bridge (that is a fishing destination) and the Historic Hollywood Theater. Sirianni said that the construction for this project should be finished by October 2019.

Gowanda Area Redevelopment Corporation President Mike Hutchinson spoke at the public hearing to compliment the board. GARC helped develop Gateway Park, which previously was a tannery, glue factory and a landfill.

“I just wanted to praise New York state for their foresight in community development,” Hutchinson said. “This project is going to have and has had a significant impact on the community. Gowanda had a lot of environmental issues and through a lot of community volunteerism — we are an all-volunteer organization — we’ve been able to turn that around. What was a negative is now a positive.”

Hutchinson added that property owners near the former landfill are now improving their homes and holding onto the land as it now boasts a beautiful park as a neighbor.

Wanda Koch attended the meeting as a village business owner and village board member. She emphasized the impact the funds and the energy in Gowanda had for residents.

“I am very excited and happy for what is going on in our village,” she said. “(For) my business, I’ve had one of the best last few months and I think it has contributed to the excitement that is going on in the community.”

In attendance with Koch and Hutchinson were Persia Town Supervisor John Walgus, Persia Town Councilman Robert Dingman Jr., Gowanda Historian Phil Palen and a recording clerk to document what was said.

Palen added to the conversation about the impact state funds made to Gowanda.

“I am just expressing my gratitude to New York state for the continued support that we’ve had for the project to restore the 1926 Hollywood Theater to its original condition,” Palen said. “We’re probably within a year, year and a half from completion. It started in 1995.”

Palen, who is also on the Historic Hollywood Theater Board of Directors, said that the theater benefited from the state’s preservation grants that allowed it to come to fruition over the past two decades.

The Gowanda Village Board will give updates when they come to its monthly meetings, the second Tuesday of every month. The meetings are at the village hall in the board room and begin at 6 p.m. with some meetings having work sessions at 5 p.m.

Twitter: @ByKuczkowski