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Update on Gowanda projects provided by mayor

Submitted Photo Gowanda Mayor David Smith said work is finishing at Gateway Park in the village. Work has included finishing some of the landscaping, roads and pathways.

GOWANDA — Renovations and refurbishments continue in the village of Gowanda, as Mayor David Smith gave an update recently to members of the village board.

The overall update of various projects was multifaceted, but the two things providing the most excitement are the renovations to village parks, as well as the Thatcher Brook Flood Diversion plan.

He said Gateway Park is having its finishing touches put on it this summer, which involves finishing some of the landscaping, roads and pathways, then erecting signage for the park. Additionally, the soccer fields and play structure at Gateway Park also are due for expansion before the park is considered finished. Smith said while it may not be the route conventionally used to attract commerce, enhancing the natural aspects of the village is the modern solution.

“Everyone would love to have industries and factories and manufacturing abilities in the village, but it just isn’t that way anymore,” Smith said. “It’s not that way anywhere. Our next biggest advantage are our ecotourism opportunities like our waterfront. It’s important to draw people into the village by creating a space people want to come by and utilize.”

The main draw of Gateway Park is the amphitheater on the waterfront facing the cliff, which Smith said has been a big draw for event applications. Overall, Smith said there have been 16 requests to use Gateway Park for various events.

“There have been 16 requests for usage at various points at Gateway, from small to big,” Smith said. “We have one band scheduled there as part of an anniversary party. We have several birthday parties, book signings, general parties, and weddings. At the last board meeting, we had to clear up protocols for the event application because we’re getting so many people who want to use it and so many diverse events that we have to make sure we can safely accommodate all of those.”

Creekside Park is also close to completion, which will also feature a small amphitheater and is in need of signage and improvements to the entrances. The construction on Creekside is expected to be completed by the end of this summer, with the total cost of both renovations being $2.5 million. The parks are both open to the public and are both heavily populated on a daily basis with bikers, joggers, and many other patrons enjoying the trails.

The other big project Smith noted was the Thatcher Brook Flood Diversion plan, which is almost to the point of being started. Smith said the DEC recently got funding, and the Primary Parties Agreement is close to being signed. This agreement will decide who pays for what in regard to the project. After that is signed, the project will enter the design phase. The project is expected to be completed within 24 months and when it is completed, Smith said the property value in the Village will go up a good amount.

“Once it’s done, property values will go up 23 to 27%,” Smith said, “because the flood plain will be significantly reduced or eliminated altogether. And those that have to pay flood insurance, which is most of the village including me, will no longer have to pay it because of that. This will open the door to have much more business interest in the village.”

Other projects going on in Gowanda include the reopening of the Hollywood Theater, which is booking events well into January. The parking lot behind the theater is also scheduled for a $350,000 renovation. The Point Peter FEMA project, which has been damaged since 2009 and again in 2014 has also had the money squared away and will be shifted so that it won’t flood in the future.

One other thing Smith is proud of, is that in 2017, Gowanda’s fiscal stress score was 55.8, meaning moderate levels of fiscal stress. Now, in 2021, the score is down to 1.6, meaning there is no fiscal stress, making them one of the highest ranked municipalities in all of Western New York.

“We in Gowanda are super excited to be progressing and moving forward during very challenging times,” Smith said. “In fact, it was recently remarked that Gowanda seems to be really progressing where others are often at a standstill. When I took over the mayor’s job, even though I had been a school official for a long time and I trusted my leadership skills, I never thought things would be going as well as they are.”

Overall, the projects will cost $20,628,223. Smith said credit for Gowanda’s progress goes to the community for working with the village, the village board, treasurer Traci Hopkins, Clerk Danielle Wagner, Deputy Mayor Carol Sheibley, Andy Burr, and the employees who manage people, the public, and budgets.

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