Gowanda decides for turf in capital project; looks to have May 15 vote

To turf, or not to turf

OBSERVER Photo by Andrew David Kuczkowski Shawn P. Wright, AIA, of Young and Wright Architectural, at far left, discusses the changes in the capital project for the turf fields. The board voted to have turf on both the baseball and softball fields due to the restrictions of doing drainage work. Also pictured are Maggie Augugliaro, an associate with Municipal Solutions, in middle, and Jeffrey W. Stone of Hodgson Russ Attorneys LLP.

To see a photo gallery of the project, click on this link: http://bit.ly/2GmdQHX

GOWANDA — The ebb and flow of the Gowanda Central School District’s capital project looks to have finally reached its plateau. The final step the board received information on is the benefits and costs to having turf baseball and softball fields.

“This project probably should be tax-neutral, no impact on the local community, where the maximum cost allowance should be looked at and not exceeded,” Interim Superintendent Dr. Robert Anderson said. “I would think we would look at our reserves as we go through here, not to expend them all, so that we have stuff for future projects to work as a base.”

Anderson began the meeting with that sentiment and the board did not object. The final proposals are to have:

1. Both turf softball and baseball diamonds with energy efficient lighting, where poles currently stand.

Photo by Andrew David Kuczkowski This is the predicted design of the turf fields for Gowanda. The diamonds will have new turf and the bright white sections are concrete walkways. For the softball field (top left), there will be new LED lighting and new fence on the third-base line (on right side in photo). For the baseball field, there will be new energy efficient LED lighting and a netting on the third-base line to protect stray fly balls from going awry. There is also the tennis court fixtures, however, those were approved by consensus of the board and not discussed at recent meetings. The courts will receive new color coats and surfacing.

2. Both turf fields at their current location and a football practice field in the middle next to the high school.3. Only add drainage to the baseball and softball fields.

No. 2 was quickly thrown out by the board for two reasons. The first was the cost. If added, the football and lacrosse teams would have a practice facility, however, they could also practice on the large outfield for the baseball field. There will be no dirt on the baseball turf. And two, the cost would require a local share of $2.063 million plus deplete the capital reserve.

The decision between No.s 1 and 3 have to be made in this capital project or both will be pushed to another due to the lack of funding. If, let’s say, the board goes with No. 3 to only do drainage, the state is paying over a 15-year plan to have a grass field with drainage underneath. The drainage will not benefit the players by getting out earlier in the spring, unlike turf, and a change of mind would not be allowed in the near future.

“The state is paying you aid on those grass fields over the 15-year period,” said Maggie Augugliaro, an associate with Municipal Solutions. “So, if you rip up the grass to put the turf up there, the state may say, ‘Well, we are paying you aid on those grass fields, so we are not going to pay you to put turf on those fields, until we are done paying you.'”

When it comes to paying for the additions or fixtures of the fields, it will come out of the capital reserve, which was estimated to have $3.27 million that was already collected. Turf fields, would cost around $2.435 million, while only drainage, would be around $1.935 million.

Purchasing the other plot of land on Aldrich Street is still within the project scope as the construction of the baseball and softball fields will leave the teams without a playing surface. The new land will be a temporary home to the athletes.

The board did a roundtable after hearing all the information and did an individual vote on whether the turf should be included. Voting yes were Mark Nephew, Lynn Guzzetta, Jennifer Gernatt and Barbara Weston. Meanwhile, Cynthia Sutherland voted yes with a separate proposition and Edward Daniel York voted yes with proposition.

As the capital project nears completion, the final steps are an environmental study and putting it forth to vote. Dr. Anderson believes the project will be on the May 15 ballot with the school’s budget vote.

The final numbers for a turf baseball, softball field is: $31,188,924 for the project’s cost. The school will receive $6.061 million for Native American building aid, $625,000 for EXCEL aid, $22.067 million in regular building aid and spend $2.435 million out of the capital reserve.

The district’s low-input to high-benefit ratio was impressive to Jeffrey W. Stone of Hodgson Russ Attorneys. He said he has worked on many capital projects and the amount of funds coming from out of the area will greatly benefit Gowanda.

“The estimated building aid ratio of 97.2 percent,” Stone said. “That … is really a very, very high, almost unprecedented number. There is only one district I worked with that had a slight advantage over that. Everyone else is lower than that. … I sit here thinking, ‘That is a tremendous influx of resources from outside of the community, coming into the community.'”

The $31-million capital project is a hefty decline from the $41.5-million project that was proposed and headed by former Gowanda Superintendent James Klubek. Under Dr. Anderson with the board already leaning toward changing the scope of the project, some facets were removed like updating the district offices.

Though Dr. Anderson still views those as future necessities, he believes that this work should start now, and others can begin later.

The Gowanda Board of Education will have a regular meeting on Wednesday, March 21. At 6 p.m., the board will discuss its upcoming budget and at 7 p.m., the board will have its regular meeting, which will include the capital project.

“Overall, I am really excited about the project,” Dr. Anderson said. “It is really nice to see it launch. There are some nice things that will benefit the community and the students. It’s been a whirlwind the last five weeks, just taking a hold of the project and breathing more life into a few tweaks here and there to make it palatable to the community, accepted by the community and of course, accepted by the board.”

Twitter: @ByKuczkowski