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Lockport to offer $28 million construction package to voters

LOCKPORT – Lockport voters, who have proven reluctant to approve sports-related construction projects, will be asked this fall to consider a nearly $28.7 million package that includes the construction of two artificial turf baseball diamonds and the installation of artificial turf on the district’s football field.

The package of proposed work also includes the construction of four STEM – science, technology, engineering and math – classrooms in existing space, two at the high school and two at North Park Middle School.

It also will include the reconstruction of the high school tennis courts, installation of handicapped accessible spectator seating at the swimming pool and its lacrosse and soccer fields, as well as fields used for physical education classes at North Park.

“In this package, we’ve included sports and education,” School Board president John A. Linderman said. “We tried to respond to taxpayers’ concerns, toning it back from 2008, when we had (proposed) the sports complex at the high school.” Voters rejected that plan, which included a new football stadium,

“Curriculum is also on the exterior of the building,” said Deborah A. Coder, assistant superintendent for finance and management. “Every student has to take physical education.”

The football team will continue to play at Emmet Belknap Intermediate School, “where the field’s not in good condition,” Linderman said. That’s why the artificial turf is to be installed.

The baseball team now plays at city-run Outwater Park, but the new diamonds are to be built on land on Beattie Avenue, across from Charles Upson Elementary School, to be donated to the district by Lockport developer David L. Ulrich.

In May, voters rejected a plan to spend $312,500 to buy 23.3 acres of land from Ulrich, while accepting a donation of an adjoining 65.7 acres. After that result, Ulrich decided to go ahead with the donation of 73 acres, according to Coder.

The land had been approved as the site of a residential subdivision, but Ulrich never was able to build it because of state wetlands regulations.

Coder said the ball diamonds would be built on the 20 acres closest to Beattie Avenue. The question of what happens with the other 53 acres will be left to the future, but Coder said there are some ideas.

“We see an opportunity to add some electives, biology, environmental science,” she said. There’s a possibility of the wetland areas becoming “an outdoor STEM environment,” Coder said.

Also, a trail for the use of the cross country team could be installed, so they wouldn’t have to run on Lockport streets. “It would give them a chance to run cross country in a natural environment,” Coder said.

She said state aid will reimburse Lockport for 89 percent of the cost of the package, which includes assorted maintenance tasks in all schools. The other 11 percent will be covered from a district capital reserve fund, so the projects would be “tax-neutral,” Coder said.

Linderman said the date for the referendum has not yet been chosen, but he expects a vote this fall, not at the regular district election in May.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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