Village scraps Barker Common fence plan

OBSERVER Photo by Greg Fox Rik Napoli of the Cool Little Music Shop in Fredonia discusses why he would like to see the village board move forward with a grant for Barker Common during Monday’s meeting.

Ding dong, the fence is gone — and that is likely music to some people’s ears.

During Monday’s Fredonia Village Board meeting, Mayor Athanasia Landis mentioned in her 2017-18 budget address that the plan for a 3-foot-high fence surrounding Barker Common has been scrapped.

The fence was part of a proposal for a New York state grant to spruce up the village’s downtown park. Fredonia secured $325,000 for the project from the state Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation Office during last year’s Regional Economic Development Council Awards.

“For some reason, the amount of money raised for the fence was a very, very low amount — it was $50,000, and $50,000 will give us an aluminum fence,” Landis explained. “So, obviously, we’re not going to put an aluminum fence in that park, so the fence is off the table as of the day we saw the actual prices.”

“When we put, in the beginning, $50,000, we didn’t have somebody to come and tell us a price because if you start asking people prices, they start asking you for money,” Landis elaborated when asked by the media after the meeting. “So, it was put $50,000, and now that we went with a specific firm to give us some prices, we saw that this $50,000 is not even going to be enough for an aluminum fence, and I would never put an aluminum fence there.”

The mayor added that instead of a fence, she would like to see small, decorative corners with high-quality, wrought-iron barriers attached to columns at each entryway into the park. That way, the village can keep the money for the fence while also not overdoing it and making some people happy along the way, she said.

Landis also announced the village no longer has to procure grant administration services for the project. Chautauqua County will now oversee those services and file the necessary paperwork for Fredonia pro bono, after County Executive Vince Horrigan suggested it to Landis while they were discussing other topics.

Trustee Douglas Essek — who single-handedly defeated a resolution to advertise for grant management services last week — asked Landis if a public meeting could be held to update the board on everything going on with the grant. Landis said she would gladly entertain such a meeting so everyone can be on the same page.

“I just think it’d be very beneficial because at this point, there may be changes that the public may totally end up changing their mind based on something different — the costs, the components,” Essek explained to Landis. “We (the trustees) need to be kept up to date, as well as the citizens.”

Trustee Phyllis Jones agreed with Essek and noted she was unaware of the change with the fence, so a public meeting is imperative to keep everyone properly informed.

“It might set some people at rest,” she pointed out, to which Landis agreed.

Landis asked Essek to organize the meeting.

When the mayor first announced the fence would be part of the grant application last summer, many people in the community voiced their dissent, with a number of letters to the editor appearing in the Opinions section of the OBSERVER. Farm Festival and Festivals Fredonia officials also expressed worries for their events, which they say revolve around the openness of Barker Common.

During the public portion of Monday’s meeting, Fredonia resident David Fridmann and Rik Napoli of the Cool Little Music Shop on West Main Street spoke in favor of the village moving forward with the Barker Common grant.

“As a retailer, I lock up my door every night and I look over my shoulder and I just wish, wish, wish I was in a town that had more businesses, retail and more hustle and bustle and foot traffic, and honestly, I see this grant in the ability to, hopefully, help the infrastructure of the park and I see it as one small step toward possibly turning things around and bringing that other retail and other shops and just traffic,” Napoli noted. “I want (people) to have a great view of our village and think of our village when it comes time to want to walk downtown and go eat or shop, and … I just see this project as a great stepping stone toward more things that could make our downtown nicer and more attractive to outside people, as well as those that live in the village, like myself. I get that we have to spend money to bring this grant in, but I also see, when you look at what we get in return for this little bit of money … in terms of what we can get done, it’s a small amount of money and I just really hope you (the board) can see that moving forward.”

Aside from the fence, the grant application — which asked for around $400,000 — offered the following improvements and enhancements for Fredonia’s downtown park: fixing broken sidewalks, ramps, diagonal walkways and the fountains’ perimeters, including the bricks; refurbishing the fountains and redesigning them so they reuse water instead of wasting it; installing an irrigation system; putting in topsoil, grass and plants; bringing in an arborist to inspect and evaluate the trees; and installing high-efficiency LED lighting and decorative columns. Design costs were also included.

Landis previously stated the only work Fredonia cannot do that it originally suggested is the sidewalks outside the park.

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