BY JOE OLENICK
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal
Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — There are still some things to figure out when it comes to the traffic congestion at Roy B. Kelley Elementary on East High Street, even after an informational meeting Wednesday.
However, of the few sure things that arose out of that meeting was that the conversation would continue, especially concerning the Lockport City School District’s interest in nearby Joseph E. Kibler Park.
The 19-acre park is located between Elmwood Avenue and East High Street, property which borders a number of homes and Roy B. Kelley Elementary School. The 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 reason for the district’s interest in the park, officials said, to alleviate the traffic congestion at Kelley, which is expected to worsen when Lockport closes Washington Hunt Elementary in June. The majority of students, between 125 and 150, will go to Kelley next fall. No major increase is expected in busing, however.
Of the residents who attended Wednesday, many live around the park or border it.
“This is very preliminary,” said Superintendent Michelle T. Bradley. “We’ll continue this process and discover a solution to this problem.”
Mayor Michael W. Tucker said last month the city would not turn over the park if residents had an issue with it. That statement was echoed by school officials Wednesday.
“We want to be neighbor friendly,” Bradley said.
Those neighbors raised a number of issues, particularly about safety. Putting a road in will only worsen what goes on now, homeowners suggested.
Some are driving on the grass now, resident Ray Waters said. They could just drive around any gate.
“They drive on the lawn now, we watch them at night,” he said.
Lydia Jones said the proposed road could become a speedway. Board of Education President John Linderman said the district is aware of the speed issues.
“That’s why we wanted a meeting to hear concerns,” Linderman said. “We don’t want a speedway.”
Allan Jack, a former school board member, said the road was an excellent way to deal with the congestion. But he was concerned about the misuse of the road as well.
“People are going to abuse it,” he said.
For any municipality to turn over property, the move must be approved by the state legislature. The land would also have to be used for recreational purposes only. Those rules include the district receiving a right-of-way or any variance needed to just put the road in, if the district just wanted to that and not take on the entire property, which Jones suggested.
Such a move is possible and could be looked at, Tucker said.
But “the district doesn’t need the property,” said Mike Campbell.
Paul Meosky, the district’s enivronmental attorney from Hodgson Russ, said it would probably be in the district’s best interest to have the entire park instead of just the road. There are maintenance and security benefits, he said.
Trustee Thomas Fiegl, who also chairs the district facilities committee, said the playground and the park would be accessible to the public, even during school hours. The proposed road through the park would likely have a gate and be used only for parents leaving the school, officials said. Buses and trucks would not use the road.
Currently, the district uses a private security company to direct traffic and to deal with the congestion at Kelley.
Last month, Lockport Board of Education members approved an environmental impact review of the park by Fisher Associates of Buffalo. That will include a traffic study and groundwater review.
No decisions have been made, as the district will continue to look at the issue, officials said.Contact reporter Joe Olenick at 439-9222, ext. 6241.