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LOCKPORT - City Youth and Recreation Director Melissa I. Junke proposed to the Common Council on Wednesday that the city purchase Washington Hunt Elementary School for use as a city youth center.
The school is scheduled to close in June as part of the continuing consolidation of the Lockport City School District.
William Agronin, vice chairman of the city Youth Board, said the acquisition could be looked at as a trade for Kibler Park, which the school district wants to acquire from the city.
Junke said she checked with school officials, who told her they'd be willing to let Washington Hunt go cheaply.
"We would only have to pay for closing costs. They said that would be between $4,000 and $6,000," Junke said. "That's how Head Start got [the former DeWitt Clinton Elementary School]."
"They've got to get rid of that building. You don't want it to fall into disrepair," Agronin said.
"That would be a great thing for this community if we could pull it off," said Alderman John Lombardi III, R-1st Ward.
Junke said the current Youth and Recreation headquarters in Altro Park "is not kid-friendly."
She said the large activity room really isn't very large, and the rest of the building is a warren of small offices.
"You can't play a sport there," said Junke, whose past notions to add a gymnasium to the building or to buy the former Speedway Park on Corinthia Street have failed because of the cost.
Washington Hunt is in good condition and has a gym, a cafeteria and a stage, as well as dozens of classrooms that could be used by a long list of not-for-profit agencies and services, not all of them youth-related, that Junke says need a home.
Its boilers are new and its roof was replaced in 2000, Junke told the Council.
Utility costs were $32,900 in 2011, but Junke said she wouldn't have to run the boilers as much as the school district does because at first, she wouldn't be using the whole building.
"I would start small," she said.
"It sounds like there's opportunities to have other rentals," said Alderman Kenneth M. Genewick, R-5th Ward.
As for the future of the Altro Park building, Junke said City Hall is crowded and she was sure some city department would be willing to move there.
Lombardi said there might be room at Washington Hunt for other city operations, too.

email: tprohaska@buffnews.com