Gowanda school board talks safe routes to school



OBSERVER Staff Writer

GOWANDA – Students and community members may have an opportunity to utilize a new walking trail in the village. Representatives from the village and Healthy Community Alliance gave a presentation at a recent board meeting about the Safe Routes to School grant.

The village and school district has been working on the grant for about a decade according to Superintendent Charles Rinaldi. He announced the grant funding has been secured. Mayor Heather McKeever, Mike Hutchinson, former village highway superintendent, and Traci Hopkins from HCA spoke to the board. The village did a walkability study in 2009 to assess how students can walk to school and how safe intersections and sidewalks are. The grant is for $650,000 – $500,000 for infrastructure and $150,000 for educational materials and resources to teach children traffic and walking safety and the benefits of walking.

“Kids do better when they have some exercise in the morning,” McKeever said.

Areas of concern identified in the walkability study include the intersection on Aldrich Street near the elementary school. Improvements to that intersection will include a raised crosswalk and more lighting to make the intersection extremely visible, according to Hutchinson. The objective of the grant will be improving the safety of students and pedestrians at crosswalks and connecting the village to the school through a river walk. The river walk is proposed to be along North Water Street and end adjacent to Hillis Field. The existing fence line along Hillis Field will be moved for the trail. The trail will have to be maintained by the district and will be designed to be a seasonal trail. Hopkins said they will build the trail to be as low maintenance as possible citing the creek side park trail has been there for over two decades and have not required any maintenance.

“I think all the taxpayers would benefit from it,” McKeever said.

The trio also approached the board to ask if the district would take full responsibility in maintaining the trail. Board members had questions about liability. Hutchinson said there is a statute in New York state that states no owner can have liability if someone were to get hurt on a recreational trail. Board member Mark Nephew was in favor of the project.

“It’s a way to promote recreational activities that are minimal cost to the school,” Nephew said.

The board of education agreed to move forward with the project as long they receive more information on the questions raised. The board also set the tax levy by resolution. The tax levy of $4,820,436 will be an increase of 2.5 percent. The tax rates are as follows for the towns: $21.86 for Dayton, $25.72 for Perrysburg, $22.15 for Persia, $17.63 for Hanover, $20.16 for Collins and $12.50 for North Collins.

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