The Cheektowaga Town Board reluctantly voted to pay the Maryvale school district $60,000 to buy land surrounding a popular public pool that attracts thousands of children in the summer.
"They should have just given us the land," Board Member Charles C. Markel said before the Monday meeting and vote. "This is just bizarre."
The Maryvale pool, which is on Maryvale Drive near the Maryvale schools and counted 7,000 visits last year, was built by the town, said Town Attorney Kevin G. Schenk. For the last 35 years, Cheektowaga has leased the land for a $1 year from the district, one of five in Cheektowaga, he said.
"We thought we should get it for nothing," Schenk said.
Yet, Maryvale School Board President Margaret J. Bourdette said, the district no longer wanted the land and had an obligation to its taxpayers: Since the Maryvale pool is open to the entire town, it wouldn't be fair to ask the smaller group of Maryvale district taxpayers to give the pool away for free.
"If the pool is owned by the entire town, I don't think our taxpayers should bear the brunt of giving it away," she said. "When you have five districts, it becomes a little sticky. I think it was an uncomfortable situation, and we tried to do what was best for our district."
While Markel said the town appraised the value of the pool and nearby playground at $19,000, Bourdette said the value was more than the discounted $60,000 the district charged.
The town agreed to pay off the land, less than two acres, in annual, $12,000 interest-free payments for the next five years. The purchase includes the pool area on Maryvale, and the playground and park at the intersection of Winston and Vegola avenues, on the other side of the Kensington Expressway.
Each year, according to Markel, the town spends about $45,000 on staff for the pool and expenses, such as chemicals. Given those costs, he said, the town should not have to pay to own land that is already public.