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ARCHAEOLOGICAL STUDY IS ORDERED FOR BUS-GARAGE SITE

Orchard Park School District voters approved a $3.7 million bond in the spring to fund a new bus garage, but before any new structures go up, the district will have to dig for old ones.

The district has been directed to conduct a "Phase 1" archaeology survey to determine if there are any archaeological sites in the proposed project area. The state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation said the study was necessary because there is an archaeological site next to the property.

The property in question is 41 acres between Route 20A and Duerr Road, west of the Route 219 expressway. It was posed as a solution to traffic congestion and exhaust in the Village of Orchard Park, where the current bus garage is located.

According to R. Michael Gramly, an archaeology professor at Canisius College, there have been at least two major archaeological sites within a mile of the proposed site for a new garage, just down the road from Ralph Wilson Stadium.

"There are some important architectural sites close to the stadium," Gramly said. "One of the greatest losses we suffered was the bulldozing of an American Indian cemetery site for a parking lot at (what was then called) Rich Stadium. And there was a village directly east across Smokes Creek."

District spokesmen said they're concerned that an archaeological study could take the district past a June 1 deadline to either finalize its deal for the land or pull out. They cite the Braunview development in Orchard Park, which they say was delayed for more than two years because of the need for archaeological studies.

"Is it a logical place for something like that to be found?" said Orchard Park Superintendent Charles L. Stoddart. "I guess that's true all over Orchard Park."

Douglas Mackey of the Historic Preservation Office said his department "looks at sensitivity maps and decides whether the project's in a sensitive area. If they get a letter, it probably is."

He said the state asks for thousands of such studies each year.

Stoddart said Orchard Park also has run into other possible problems with the site, which it had agreed to buy for more than $300,000 if it met the district's approval.

He said there is reportedly a gas well on the property that needs to be capped -- if it can be found. Add to that wetlands that may extend over more of the 41-acre site than the five acres previously projected and road renovation costs on Route 20A that the district says could cost between $300,000 and $750,000.

"It's like every time you turn around somebody throws something else at you," said School Board President M. Donald Pritchard. "The 20A property has some drawbacks. Some of the wetlands that would have to be donated back, those lands are apparently a little more than was figured in the first place, so the buildable property is probably not as large as we probably thought."

Pritchard said the district has been looking at properties for possible purchase if the board decides to build another school or if the bus garage site doesn't work out.

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