Gowanda capital project vote is Thursday

Submitted Photo Under proposition 2, the baseball and softball fields will be replaced with synthetic turf, which is expected to have reduced maintenance costs and extend athletic seasons.

GOWANDA — This Thursday, Gowanda Central School district residents will decide whether or not the proposed $30 million two-part capital improvements project will pass. The project has been a controversial issue over the past two years, as residents balked at the $41.5 million version of the project last fall and voted down the scaled-down $31 million version in May. Will voters feel differently about this two-part project on Thursday?

That may come down to one key part of the proposed project: the installation of synthetic turf at the baseball and softball fields. According to Superintendent Dr. Robert Anderson, turf was the most controversial part of the May project, as many questioned the necessity of it, given the hefty $1.1 million price tag.

“The board decided to pull out the turf and make it a separate proposition for residents to vote on,” Anderson explained. Proposition one, which includes the bulk of the project including site work, can pass independently of proposition two, which adds synthetic turf; however, proposition two can only pass if proposition one is also passed.

In the past, district residents, such as Janet Vogtli, complained that the board of education failed to adequately advertise the last capital project or provide district residents with enough information and time to make a decision.

However, much has changed since May, for not only is Vogtli now a member of the school board, but Anderson, who had been serving as both the middle/high school principal and interim superintendent, was officially appointed superintendent in July. Additionally, the board announced this week’s vote date of Dec. 13 more than two months in advance and sent out an eight-page newsletter detailing the project to all district residents in November.

Last week, a capital improvements project public meeting was held in the high school auditorium to give district residents another opportunity to learn more and voice their concerns. Anderson went over the project, which is based on the 2015 Building Condition Survey required by the state education department every five years. He explained to the two dozen people who attended despite the treacherous weather, that the project makes use of the district’s capital reserve fund and state building aid; therefore, it creates no increase in the tax levy.

Part 1 of the project includes the following:

Site Scope

¯ Replace/rebuild Panther Drive Bridge

¯ Campus pavement/sidewalk repairs

¯ Purchase of approximately 10 acres of land adjacent to elementary school for baseball field extension

¯ Renovations to baseball/softball fields

Health, Safety and Welfare Scope

¯ Redesign all school entrances to create secure entries district-wide

¯ Fire alarm upgrades district-wide

¯ Lavatory renovations at the middle/high school

¯ Renovation of B wing classrooms at elementary school

¯ elementary school crawl space abatement

¯ Rooftop unit replacement and masonry work at bus garage

Technology Scope

¯ Upgrade security cameras, fiber cabling and WiFi coverage district-wide

¯ Renovate technology classrooms to separate computer labs from shop areas at middle/high school

Energy Efficiency Scope

¯ Create a climate-controlled environment throughout the district

¯ LED lighting upgrades district-wide and at bus garage

Under proposition 1, the total cost is budgeted for $29,174,459. Of that amount, $20,269,366 is designated for improvements at the middle/high school, $6,539,941 for the elementary school, $1,219,800 for the bus garage and $1,145,352 for the Panther Drive Bridge.

Under proposition 2, the baseball and softball fields would be replaced with synthetic turf instead of grass at a total additional cost of $1,334,058. This amount includes the installation of turf, as well as stone underlay, batting cages, stormwater management and water quality treatment. Although the expected years of service for turf are estimated to be the same as grass fields (15 to 20 years), expected maintenance costs are less ($7,500/year as opposed to $23,000/year for grass) and turf is hoped to increase outside physical education opportunities and allow longer seasons for sports teams.

Anderson told the OBSERVER that when it comes to baseball and softball, “they’re the most weather-dependent sports we have,” as both football and lacrosse can be played in muddy conditions. “There’s not much you can do in a swampy baseball field, which can really shorten an athletic season and affect our middle/high school gym classes,” he pointed out.

Anderson explained that this is the largest capital improvements project the district has had in quite some time. “We added a new science wing about four or five years ago, but that’s mainly been it,” he said. “From our building survey, it’s been clear that quite a bit needs to be done. It’s like letting a house go for five or 10 years. It has to be kept up pretty regularly or it won’t be in good shape for the future.”

Qualified district residents (U.S. citizens 18 years of age or older who have been district residents for 30 days prior to the vote) can decide on the two-part project this Thursday, Dec. 13. Voting is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the middle school library. In case of a snow day, the vote will be held the following day, Friday, Dec. 14. Anderson encourages district residents to visit www.gowcsd.org and click the Capital Project tab to learn more.