Tonawanda News

Local News

June 15, 2011

Clint Small update given

— — If the Tonawanda City School District and residents act fast, they can take advantage of a loophole that would allow a new Clint Small Stadium to be built at the high school site for far less than the cost to renovate the current Main Street site.

That was the message given by Brian P. Brady and David Kenyon, representatives from Wendel Duchscherer, the firm hired by the district to serve as architects for the first phase of a capital improvement project. They were asked by the district to provide an update on the project at Tuesday’s school board meeting.

Brady and Kenyon recommended a project with a price tag of about $12 million, most of it paid for by the state. A new stadium would be built at the high school as part of an overall plan that includes adding classroom space, a new bus loop and other amenities.

With the district responsible for only 10 percent of the project’s cost, that equates to about $4.61 per year, per home over 15 years, based on $80,000 valuation. The district would use its capital reserve fund —money designated solely for construction projects — to hold down the per-year cost.

The cost to renovate Clint Small Stadium is about $1.4 million, Brady said. Because the stadium is no longer contiguous with district property, it isn’t eligible for financial aid from the state; taxpayers would have to foot the entire $1.4 million bill.

“It’s a huge project and the state won’t pay a dime,” Brady said.

Relocating the stadium would cost $6.5 million, but when 90 percent state aid is factored into the price tag, the district’s share would be about 40 percent of the cost to renovate the current site.

“The impact of state aid is enormous,” Brady said.

The current stadium needs new bleachers and lights. It would also have to be upgraded to comply with Americans With Disabilities Act standards. Upgrades are also needed in the parking lot, to plumbing and other areas.

“The bleachers are absolutely at the end of their useful life,” Brady said. “Bleachers are not cheap to replace.”

He went on to say that the bleachers could “survive” a couple more years, but compared them to the usefulness and cost-effectiveness of an old car; they are at the point where the return on investment won’t match the money sunk into repairs.

If a new stadium were to be built, some of the old location would be moved to the high school.

“We would try to incorporate as much of the old Clint Small Stadium as possible at the new site,” said Kenyon, a Tonawanda High School graduate. He pointed to the ticket booth as an example.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is trying to close the loophole that allows the current method of reimbursement. He almost succeeded in February, but the state legislature shot him down.

Current state education law allows 25 percent aid based on cost allowance, which for Tonawanda is $37 million. Therefore, the district is allowed to use $9,250,000 on incidental, or “soft” costs, such as architectural work, legal counsel and non-education items like parking lots and sports facilities.

Closing the loophole would allow state reimbursement only for actual construction costs to school buildings. If the law were to change, the district would be responsible for about half of the $12 million project.

With New York state facing financial hardships, the school board is being urged to move quickly before that loophole is closed.

“That’s a significant issue,” said Director of Finance Joe Giarizzo. “It would make it very difficult for any school district to do one of these projects.”

Jeff Stone, a representative of bond firm Hodgson-Russ, said now is the time to act because interest rates are the lowest he’s seen in nearly 30 years.

“The borrowing rates have never been more attractive,” Stone said.

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