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February 17, 2017 - 3:33pm

Future of Van Detta Stadium dominates community meeting on City Schools capital project

posted by Howard B. Owens in City Schools, education, schools, news.

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.

Dave Meyer
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I was unable to attend the meeting this past Wednesday, but below are my thoughts.
I love how this project refers to "in-use" school buildings. I've criticized the BSD in the past for their penchant for overbuilding their infrastructure. The result is now that we have a building (Robert Morris) that is being used as rental and office space but not for students. I sincerely hope that the net net is a positive for the district.
I am loathe to vote for EVEN MORE construction (at John Kennedy school) but realistically, as much as I HATE the idea, it's probably best to add the needed classrooms at JK. I can also support the projects at the other "in-use" school buildings.
What I CANNOT and WILL NOT support is the Van Detta stadium renovation and if this is not split out as a separate item, I will vote AGAINST the entire project.
I regard the Van Detta project as a ‘want’ and not a ‘need’. The Batavia football program has been brought back from the depths by the excellent leadership of Coach Briggs. That is to be commended and celebrated.
I don’t know to what extent this proposal is related to that but in any event this project, on this scale, simply is not necessary. Just last year, there were improvements made to enhance handicapped access for spectators.
As regards the proposed artificial turf field, there are countless articles citing the health risks for students who play on artificial turf, ranging from orthopedic injuries to cancer risks. Ask any professional athlete which surface they would prefer to play on. Natural grass is better and healthier (and less expensive) than turf.
The TOTAL COST of grass vs Turf is higher. The Forbes article entitled “How taxpayers get fooled on the cost of an Artificial Turf field” http://www.forbes.com/.../2014/09/28/how-taxpayers-get-foo...
details how taxpayers are deceived about maintenance costs.
These fields have to be replaced every 8-10 years. In addition to the environmental solid waste impact what about the cost of turf replacement??
As regards the proposal in an earlier article on the Batavian to use this new field for multiple sports, there have already been projects to develop playing fields for those other sports. What are we to do with those? That grass is still going to need to be mowed. I'm sure that if other sports such as Lacrosse or Soccer wanted to play on the existing field that could be accommodated.
The BOE seems reluctant to split this proposal into 2 votes, one for the building upgrades and one for the VanDetta upgrades because I think they know that one would pass and one wouldn't. We've been down this road before. The cost of replacing this turf field every 8-10 years is not something that the taxpayers should be saddled with. They have a perfectly serviceable field now and unless they split the vote I would advise voters to reject this project. It's too bad the BOE is being so bull-headed.
Finally, the BOE argument is that this money is ‘FREE’. I disagree. This money is not ‘FREE’. It is money collected by New York State and the district from us. I’m sure the district will argue, “well if we don’t get it some other district will”. That may be the case, but I would rather be part of the solution than part of the problem. If the district has surplus funds, how about this novel concept? Use it to reduce school taxes.

Dave Meyer
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Sorry, the link to the Forbes article on the cost of turf fields didn't translate properly.
Here it is:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikeozanian/2014/09/28/how-taxpayers-get-foo...

John Roach
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I would have voted yes for the school and library projects, but since they are tied into the stadium, I'll vote no.

Kelly MArch
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I will vote NO also....
There are too many vague pieces to the project.
The public Library needs more repairs that noted. If Chris Dailey had to use our men's bathroom everyday, it would have be updated long ago. Same with out drinking fountains and lack of ventilation in all bathrooms.
Did the district even entertain the notion of talking with Notre Dame HS? Across the street sits acreage to alleviate the parking problems. The proposed tear down and rebuild will not provide enough parking for a home devils football game. Why not consolidate services? Why not enter into an agreement with NDHS and share a facility that all students/taxpayers within the BCSD can enjoy? The close mindedness of the current administration to only save our tax dollars (fund balance/zero-tax) for their own priorities (the turf field they wanted a few years ago & we voted down). Now they saved our money and packaged up this building project very nicely to fool taxpayers into thinking this is a great' no cost' deal.

Dave Meyer
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Exactly my point.
The district is fixated on upgrading Van Detta stadium. It is a want and NOT a need.
The board has chosen to not split the project into 2 parts and because of that the whole thing is going to go down.
It's a shame because the school building upgrades are worthy of being done but because the board is bullheaded they are at risk.

The board has tried to bury the replacement costs for replacing the turf field which has to be done every 8 - 10 years. Look at the Forbes article to see what the relative costs are.

I'm voting no.

david spaulding
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....... if you want this voted down, all you have to do is bus in illegal aliens on march 2 and tell them how to vote.. the president has told me there are millions of them out there that love to vote and he knows. yes he knows very very much.

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