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The Dunkirk School Board and city officials decided Tuesday night to create a committee to consider a new community center.

The board wants to build a second gymnasium at the high school to relieve overcrowding. At the same time, Mayor Margaret Wuerstle has proposed a community center, including a gymnasium, as part of the harborfront development. The Common Council, however, is opposed to her idea.

The demand for the gym is so heavy that it affects the scheduling of other events, school officials say. The cost of the new gym is estimated at $1.1 million. But board members decided that even with state reimbursement of 74 percent, the project is too expensive.

Robert Patterson, the city's director of recreation, told board members, "More than a gym is needed," and suggested adding classrooms and other facilities.

Trustee Henry Serafin, who opposes further projects, said gymnasiums in the district's nine buildings should be used by residents.

Mayor Margaret Wuerstle said key to a community center is community interest.

"If the commitment is there, the project can happen if we want it to happen," she said. "A lot of creative solutions can be found. We will decide which one will work."

"Collaboration is needed," Second Ward Councilman Frank Gawronski said. "Coming together for the people in the city will be a major accomplishment."

The board originally thought the city could finance the cost of the gymnasium not covered by the state. But Walter Ocherski, a consultant, said the state would pay 74 percent of the district's cost -- not 74 percent of the project's cost.

Trustee John Murphy said he would study a lease or some other arrangement so both the city and district can share a facility.

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