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Ending a bitter fight between the school district and a local taxpayer group, the state has determined that Lancaster's soon-to-open field house does not need fire sprinklers.

Since the field house is part of the high school, it comes under a state code that "does not require a sprinkler system be installed," according to a Sept. 21 letter from the New York Department of State released at Monday's School Board meeting.

Outside groups will use the field house, but not enough to change its designation as primarily a school building, the letter from Cheryl A. Fischer, of the Department of State's code division, said.

A different designation could have forced the giant field house -- the first of its kind in a Western New York high school -- to have fire sprinklers.

The letter was the last word in a long, heated debate over the field house, with even the project's most ardent opponents finally conceding defeat.

"I think we should nail the coffin shut," said Trustee Richard Foley, whose opposition to the project helped him win office this summer.

"I can't take it any further," said Jack Beilman of the Lancaster Taxpayers Association, which contended the project was a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Work on the site has already started, and the School Board learned Monday that the field house is expected to be finished in April instead of next July, as was originally anticipated.

In other action, the board:

Voted to stop granting school tax breaks, called 485-B exemptions, to new or expanding businesses. The action was a response to criticism about the impact of the tax breaks on other taxpayers. Trustee Edward Carlsen voted against the move, saying it would discourage new businesses from choosing to locate in Lancaster.

Learned that State Sen. Dale Volker, D-Depew, has agreed to provide a state grant to pay the estimated $35,000 needed to buy about 100 new marching band uniforms. Many of the current uniforms are decades old, but the district couldn't provide the money to replace them because it is on a contingency budget.

Voted against hiring a part-time physical education teacher as well as two teacher aides for Como Park School's four fourth-grade classes and one teacher aide for Central Avenue School for two third-grade classes.

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