Orchard Park school officials may be amenable to working with other public officials to help senior citizens obtain the school district’s Baker Road administrative building and convert it into a new community center – but the building will not be given away for free.
“We have to make sure we get fair market value,” School Superintendent Matthew P. McGarrity said Tuesday after more than a dozen senior citizens in red shirts urged the School Board to part with the building.
This summer, the district will move administrative and transportation offices out of the 5,000-square-foot Baker Road facility to a site on Southwestern Boulevard near Angle Road.
The Baker Road building would be ideal for the Orchard Park Senior Council, said Jacqueline Briggs, a South Buffalo Street resident who is president of the group. The Senior Council outgrew its current facility on Linwood Avenue nearly 10 years ago, she said.
“This would save the taxpayers a great deal of money, since the taxpayers have already paid for this building,” Briggs told the School Board during its regular business meeting. “We’re asking the Orchard Park School Board to find a way to allow the senior population ... to have it as the new, larger Orchard Park senior center.”
McGarrity said the district’s plans to relocate were always contingent on selling or leasing the Baker Road building.
“When we had the voters vote on the facility, it was based on the sale or lease of this building. So, there was discussion tonight about transferring ownership or giving it away. That can’t happen. We’ve reiterated that to the town on several occasions,” McGarrity said. “But,” he added, “that doesn’t mean we don’t want to work with the town toward a resolution.”
Seniors already have appealed to the Town Board for assistance in swaying the School Board. They got a lift from Assemblyman Michael P. Kearns, D-Buffalo, who attended the meeting and made an appeal on the seniors’ behalf. “As an Assembly member, my focus is to address the health, economic and quality-of-life concerns of members of the district who are 50 years and older, and their families. Keeping the best interests of these citizens in mind, I support the move from the Orchard Park Senior Center to the Baker Road facility,” Kearns said.
A spokesman for State Sen. Mark J. Grisanti, R-Buffalo, also took up their cause. “In our opinion, this is a common-sense approach to ensure low taxes and happy seniors,” said Joel Feroleto, Grisanti’s deputy chief of staff.
Alfred Szymanski, of Bielak Road, said more than just seniors would benefit. “The size of this building will enable the town to accommodate our seniors and the community’s future needs,” Szymanski said.