SCCSD prepares for Vets Park sublease referendum
SALAMANCA — On Dec. 18, residents of the Salamanca City Central School District have the opportunity to vote on a referendum concerning a potential multi-million-dollar project in the community with no additional cost to district residents.
Approval of the referendum would allow the district to sublease Veterans Memorial Park from the city of Salamanca for 50 years as well as purchase two properties adjacent to Seneca Intermediate School on Fern Avenue.
“The last couple of weeks have been somewhat organizational in nature,” said Robert Breidenstein, district superintendent. “We’ve been waiting for all of the pieces to fall into place.”
In the coming weeks, several meetings have been scheduled by the district throughout the Salamanca area for residents to hear the plans and ask questions about the potential project.
The meetings are set for:
Nov. 14 at 6 p.m.: Title VI PAC Meeting at the Allegany Community Center
Nov. 19 at 4 p.m.: Salamanca High School Community Thanksgiving Dinner
Nov. 26 at 6 p.m.: Holy Cross Athletic Club (downstairs)
Dec. 4 at 6 p.m.: Salamanca Board of Education meeting
Dec. 12 at 7 p.m.: Salamanca Common Council meeting
The meetings will open with a two-to-three-minute video presentation created by Warrior Vision Media Department students as an explanation of the sub-lease and why it is needed, followed by a presentation by the Breidenstein.
“There were about 50-plus people in the room,” he said of the Nov. 1 meeting. “Lots of good questions about the impact his might have on the community. The general tenor seemed to be supportive and positive of a pretty significant financial investment in Vets Park.”
The district entered into informal discussions with the Seneca Nation of Indians and Salamanca Recreation Commission in the fall of 2017, Breidenstein said. In January 2018, the first formal discussion was hosted in the Seneca Nation Council Chambers with the Nation, city and the district.
Through joint collaboration and several more meetings, Breidenstein said the concept of a 50-year sublease of Vets Park was approved by the Nation in March and in August by the Recreation Commission and Salamanca Common Council. On Oct. 29, the Salamanca Board of Education adopted a resolution supporting a referendum for Dec. 18.
“We’re the last cog to fall in place in what has amounted to about a 15-month planning process,” he added. “The general consensus has been whatever is at Vets Park currently for fields and amenities will remain at Vets Park and be improved significantly.”
The sublease of Vets Park and the purchase of two properties would be acquired with existing funds from the district’s reserves, meaning the possible $10- to $15-million project would be done with no additional tax impact on the community.
Before preparation of the potential project, which is expected to be put before the community for a vote in March 2019, the district would need to secure the sublease for Vets Park and purchase the two additional properties.
According to Breidenstein, the Dec. 18 referendum to approve the sublease would satisfy the state requirement and allow future site improvements.
Potential improvements could include athletic field upgrades to allow baseball and lacrosse to be played simultaneously as well as renovations to the concession stands, restrooms, parking, lights, sound system, playground, scoreboard, team rooms and storage areas.
“Absence of a December positive referendum and the district can provide no improvements to Vets Park,” Breidenstein said. “This is a partnership between all three entities, the Nation, city and district, to really invest in some economic development that we think will drive some tourism and drive some business.”
In addition to the Vets Park sublease, the referendum also includes approving the purchase of two properties at 50 Fern Ave. and a portion of 680 Broad St. adjacent to Seneca Intermediate School.
“We’ve had conversation with those properties owners about those two properties in the past,” Breidenstein said. “And with construction, we’ve reached a tentative agreement on those, pending voter approval.”
These properties would allow improved egress, safety and access to the new entrance at the Seneca Intermediate School, Breidenstein explained, especially at arrival and dismissal times. The addition of a new Seneca office is part of Phase I of the ongoing capital project.
“We’re trying to be response to some safety concerns we’ve identified with where the main office is going to be and give them their own true, unique identity and entrance,” he added.
Breidenstein said the timing for such a project and referendum is good because when the Nation, city and school district have worked together before, it has been fruitful for the community.
“The district is in a unique positions to invest millions of dollars that are already in the bank,” he said. “We’ve done our due diligence, we’ve done our homework and brought in the city and Nation as partners in this joint venture. That historically has been proven to be really productive.”
(Contact managing editor Kellen Quigley at email@example.com)