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AGENCY OFFERING AMHERST A DEAL FOR $1 BUT PLANS FOR WATER AUTHORITY TRACT COULD PROVE COSTLY

Where can you buy 2.8 acres of land in a densely populated section of Amherst for $1?

At the foot of Yorktown Road, behind Amherst Middle School, in southernmost Snyder.

The Erie County Water Authority no longer needs the land, the site of an old water storage tank, and is offering it to the town for the price of a Lotto 54 ticket.

Amherst already owns about six contiguous acres in the area -- generally known as "Saratoga Park" -- and almost nine acres beats six acres if you are shopping with future public recreational needs in mind.

Southwestern Amherst -- Snyder and particularly Eggertsville -- aren't exactly known for their abundance of public parks, playgrounds or recreation centers.

And so Amherst Supervisor Daniel J. Ward told town planners this week to investigate the property's potential for an ice-skating rink, swimming pool or other community uses.

Ward said he wants an idea of what various projects might cost, as well as the expense for of demolishing the old dome-topped water tank, most of which is underground.

If the supervisor has an indoor ice rink in mind, the site is big enough for the building and parking, but ice rinks can cost more than $3 million, said Jeffrey M. Bloom, Amherst recreation director.

Justifying that kind of money for single-purpose recreation projects is tough, Bloom said.

Swimming pool? The relatively small 50-meter pool the town will build next year in a new park off North Forest Road will cost several hundred thousand dollars.

Town Engineer Roland Doan Jr., who lives on Berryman Drive, near the Snyder tract, wants the town to acquire the Water Authority property -- but use it as a storm-water retention basin, leaving the remaining six acres of grass and the "Berryman woods" untouched.

Neighborhood youngsters sled down the sides of the high earthen berm around the water tank, skate on the ice that forms in low areas, and play in the woods, Doan said.

Doan and other veteran town officials say they recall the uproar on Berryman and Washington Highway several years ago when the town wanted to make an active park out of the six acres.

"They let us know in no uncertain terms that they wanted the open space to remain in passive usage," said Harold J. Collier, a town councilman since 1974.

Appealing as the price is, Ward told planners he wants to see some cost estimates on potential projects because of what happened "the last time we got involved in a $1 sale."

Ward was referring to the town's $1 purchase of the old Harlem Road Elementary School from the Amherst Central School District a few years ago.

While the school and about four acres may only have cost $1, the town ended up pouring more than $2 million into converting the building into the new Harlem Road Community Center.

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