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Williamsville forum is set on overhaul of high school athletic sites

Taxpayers in the Williamsville Central School District will get their chance Thursday to ask questions and air concerns about a $27 million plan to overhaul the athletic complexes at Williamsville North, South and East high schools.

A community meeting on the district proposal is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday at Williamsville East High School, 151 Paradise Road, where much of the public outcry over the plan has come from nearby neighbors on Britannia Drive.

The residents say they are only now finding out about the project at Williamsville East and have numerous concerns, including the installation of lights, more noise, less privacy, and drainage problems due to runoff from the new artificial turf.

They also want to know about the potential long-term health risks associated with the rubber crumb material used on the synthetic field.

“We’re not looking to derail this project, but we’d like some answers to some of our concerns,” said Britannia resident Russell W. Dye.

About 30 neighbors recently met to discuss the issues, Dye said.

“We hope that we can address some of our concerns at this meeting … and have some input that would offer the least negative impact on our neighborhood,” Dye said.

A group of coaches, parents and community leaders working on the proposal since June have described canceled practices, missed opportunities to host tournaments and potential safety hazards on some fields because of the current conditions.

As a result, a referendum will be held in May to decide whether taxpayers want to spend $49 million on district wide construction projects – more than half for athletic facilities. That includes $22.4 million to add turf and revamp athletic fields at the three high schools and an additional $4.6 million on restrooms, concessions and lights.

At Williamsville East, the district wants at add two multipurpose synthetic fields for soccer, field hockey, lacrosse, baseball and football to allow for two games to be going on at the same time. Other improvements would include a new portable sound system and press box, bleachers, scoreboards and a storm water-management system for the turf fields.

Similar improvements are planned for Williamsville North.

At Williamsville South, the district wants to add one synthetic turf field and build a new stadium with bleacher capacity for 2,700 people. Other enhancements include a new track and field stations, scoreboard, sound system, ticket booth, security fencing and five new tennis courts.

School Superintendent Scott G. Martzloff plans to give a brief overview of the proposal at Thursday’s meeting and field questions from the public, said Rita M. Wolff, a district spokeswoman.

“We’re hoping we get a good turnout,” Wolff said. “The meeting is intended to be a two-way conversation.”