BY JOE OLENICK
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal —
Lockport City School District officials will be having another conversation with the city concerning Joseph E. Kibler Park.
Board of Education members on Wednesday directed Superintendent Michelle T. Bradley to contact city officials about the district's interest in taking over the park. Bradley said there had been back and forth communication and that the city wanted to know what the district's plans were before making a decision.
But since a public meeting last fall, discussion had stalled. So, board members want a clear answer from 1 Locks Plaza.
"I think we have to take one more shot with the city and ask for an absolute yes or no," said board Vice President David Nemi. "If it's no, then we move on."
The 19-acre park is located between Elmwood Avenue and East High Street, a property which borders a number of homes and Roy B. Kelley Elementary School. The school district wants to obtain the park to put in an access road that runs from the school to Elmwood Avenue in the north, to allow a exit route for parents dropping off students.
The move would relieve traffic congestion at Kelley, which tends to get heavy in the morning and afternoon when students are being picked up and dropped off. With the impending closure of Washington Hunt in June, the school will take on most of the Hunt students. That could make the congestion worse, officials said.
Trustee Thomas Fiegl, who chairs the board's facilities committee, said the committee was recommending to not move forward with the Kibler acquisition and instead look for other ways to relieve the congestion. That was due to concerns aired by neighbors and the lack of communication with the city, Fiegl said.
If the school district took over the park, it would maintain the property, improve the playground area and put in the access road, Fiegl said. Owning the property would give the district control over who could use the access road.
Lockport had asked the state education department for aid on the construction of the driveway, which was estimated to cost $450,000. The department said no, meaning the entire cost would've been covered by the district, probably through its capital reserve fund. Voter approval would have been needed to use the funds in that manner, however.
Bradley said SED's denial caused administration to start rethinking the Kibler plan, mainly because of the cost to put in the access road. There was also an environmental study that would've been done on the park, but the costly study would've been meaningless if the city said no to the acquisition. The holdup with the city was delaying the study, district officials said.
Trustee Edward Sandell said he believed traffic congestion would worsen in September when the Hunt kids transferred. Taking over the park and putting in the access road was the best solution, Sandell said.
"The idea was a great one," he said. "It could still happen. We had a lot of resistance from the public... I'm appealing to the public. I'd like a grassroots response back, please let's rethink this thing. I think it's the best solution I've heard."Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241.