ASHVILLE - The Chautauqua Children's Safety Education Village is closer to completion, thanks to a recently awarded grant and the support of the community, Sheriff Joe Gerace said Tuesday afternoon.
''It's been almost 12 years in the making, but we have been determined and we are hoping on being ready to open by the spring of 2010,'' Gerace said. ''To say we're elated would be an understatement.''
The safety village, under construction at the Hewes Educational Center in Ashville, will be a child-sized town, complete with a business district, streets, traffic signals and a railway crossing.
Photos by Robert Rizzuto
Top: Chautauqua County Sheriff Joseph Gerace thanked everyone who has contributed to the Safety Village project over the past 12 years and announced that the grant it recently received will help the facility open by 2010.
Above: Jon Mauers, district marketing manager for Tim Hortons, Terri Kindberg, project coordinator for the Safety Village and Sheriff Joseph Gerace announced Tuesday that Tim Hortons has signed on to develop a building at the Safety Village.
Chautauqua County Sheriff's deputies will use the facility to teach children sign recognition, bicycle safety, how to call 911 and what questions to expect, what to do at a railway crossing, how to properly cross the street and many other safety related scenarios.
There will also be a state-of-the-art fire-education center that will allow trained firefighters to teach electrical safety and fill rooms with simulated smoke, allowing children to practice escape plans and then gather at a designated meeting location.
In addition to the aforementioned uses, Gerace said he plans on holding a number of children's events, such as trick-or-treating, at the village each year.
''We will use this village for any purpose that helps our community in addition to our primary intentions,'' he said. ''I know from my experiences in law enforcement, that a lot of the tragedies I've seen could have been prevented by good instruction, and that's our primary goal.''
Gerace said that the total cost of the project, which was paid for through grants and donations, is around $2.2 million. That includes the $1,760,750 grant recently awarded courtesy of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Transportation Enhancement Program.
As the village nears completion, a McDonald's restaurant has been completed and Tim Hortons just signed on to construct a building as well.
''We're really excited to be a part of this,'' said Jon Maurer, regional marketing manager for Tim Hortons. ''We have several similar sites in Canada and it's great that we have the opportunity to build one here.''
The safety village concept is relatively new in much of the U.S., but has been a popular means of education in Canada for years, Gerace explained. He said that members of the American Legion Herman Kent Post 777 were the ones who first brought the idea to him at his office.
''We were up in Ontario marching for Veterans Day and they took us on a tour of the area and their safety village,'' said Rosalee Waid, the post's treasurer. ''We took pictures and brought the idea to a number of people in the area but the sheriff is the one who wanted to pursue it.''
Gerace said that the group of volunteers who have worked on the project for more than a decade is one of the best he's ever dealt with. He credits their steadfastness through the years and ability to overcome obstacles as the driving force of the village, and said that without them, the village would have died as a vision.
For more information about the safety village, visit www.ccsev.org.