Video provided by the Batavia City School District.
The forum at Batavia High School on Wednesday night was meant to discuss all aspects of the City School District's proposed $26.7 million capital improvement project, but most comments zeroed in on the future of Van Detta Stadium.
Some area residents are concerned about lights, noise, traffic, pedestrians and trash related to events at the facility.
The project, which the district has dubbed the 2020 Vision Capital Improvement Project, also had its supporters.
The project relies on money saved specifically for capital improvements and state aid, so all of the new building and upgrades can take place without any local tax increase.
Voters will be asked whether the district should move forward with the plan at a referendum vote March 2.
Jim Owen, a Redfield Parkway resident, substitute teacher, and regular at community events, praised the district for the plan.
"I just wanted to say thank you to the board and the superintendent for putting this opportunity to the voters," Owen said. "A zero-tax increase is, in my opinion, a no-brainer. When I pay a zero increase to get these benefits for today, tomorrow and the future for the children and the community, I say, thank you very much."
Among the skeptics was Councilman Bob Bialkowski, who lives in the area of the stadium. He said he has had calls from area residents about events at the current stadium and worried that changes will just make matters worse for the otherwise residential neighborhood.
“We need to teach our kids an important lesson that we care about our neighborhoods and our residential community," Bialkowski said. "I think it would be better if the vote was separated, the stadium separate from the rest of the project, but it’s too late for that.”
On the issues of light, noise, traffic and crowd control, Superintendent Chris Dailey said all of those issues are being addressed.
Lighting, for example, will use new LED lights that will not only be more energy efficient, they will be more directional so there will be less "spray" into neighboring properties.
There will continue to be security in place, including Batavia PD, to help deal with traffic, and the school will continue to emphasize to students the importance of not walking on people's lawns and leaving behind their trash.
Mike Barrett, an area resident, said he was pretty accepting of the seemingly inevitable change, but he's not happy about the prospects. There are already problems and he thinks they will just get worse.
"It’s getting out of hand, and now you want to bring in more programs," Barrett said. "This is a residential area when I have complaints it’s always on a Friday night, a Saturday night and nobody can be reached. I call the police, they drive by, they wave at the people and nothing gets done. It gets worse. So when I hear about marching bands and expanded athletic events, I think, this is insane. It’s a residential area."
Brad Griffith, who also lives in the area and said he played on Woodward Field when he was in high school, said he understands the concerns, but he thinks the new stadium will benefit the community and benefit the students.
"This is going to bring business to Batavia and we all gain from this," he said. "I know some have their issues with this, but I’d rather have my kids taking part in athletics and staying out of trouble."
There was little discussion about the planned upgrades to the four schools in the district, but when there was, it was about the current and future use of a building no longer used as a schoolhouse -- Robert Morris.
One parent asked, instead of adding more classrooms to John Kennedy, why not move one grade of students over to Robert Morris.
That was considered at one point, Dailey said.
"We looked at relocating one grade over to Robert Morris and looked at the social, emotional and academic impact, as well as the financial, of moving one grade over, and it was not beneficial to the students to add one more transition to the age group," Dailey said. "That’s why we chose not to go into Robert Morris."
Currently, Robert Morris is being used by the Star Program, a day-care provider, Genesee County Mental Health Association as a satellite office to help students and the IT department and buildings and grounds may be moving in.
After Bialkowski objected during his remarks to talk of the Batavia Daily News moving its offices over to Robert Morris, Dailey said that while the Daily News had toured the building, there was no current lease offer. After the meeting, he said the Daily News looked at the building months ago and never followed up with any further discussions.