In Sloan, de­bate over pool leaves vil­lage in un­charted wa­ters

The Buffalo News - - FRONT PAGE - By Jane Kwiatkowski Radlich

When the bal­lots were counted last month to de­ter­mine who would serve on the Sloan Vil­lage Board, elec­tion of­fi­cials were stunned to learn they had a tie, a first for the 123-yearold vil­lage.

But the linch­pin of the cam­paign might be a first for the re­gion: Wad­ing pool or splash pad?

The re­moval of a mu­nic­i­pal wad­ing pool built dur­ing the Lyn­don John­son ad­min­is­tra­tion and the plan to re­place it with its more mod­ern cousin, the splash pad, has fed the ri­valry be­tween the Sloan Cit­i­zens Party and the Peo­ple’s Choice Party. It has irked vil­lage of­fi­cials. And it has ne­ces­si­tated this week’s revote to break that his­toric tie.

The end of this story should be known Tues­day, when that revote be­tween Tammy Bayes and Jen­nifer Kregg is sched­uled for noon to 9 p.m. in the Sloan Fire

Hall, 55 Gates Ave.

It started a year ago, when vil­lage of­fi­cials found out that it would cost more than $300,000 to fix the 55-year-old pool in Sloan Vil­lage

Park. The fil­tra­tion sys­tem was fail­ing, and it didn’t com­ply with the Amer­i­cans with Dis­abil­i­ties Act.

“It made no sense to fix. It was a 1-to-2-foot wad­ing pool,” said Vil­lage Clerk De­bra Smith.

“That pool was as old as Christ­mas. Ev­ery­thing was go­ing on it – the pump, the hoses. We didn’t have the money for that,” said Mayor Thomas Fer­rucci, a life­long Sloan res­i­dent in his se­cond year of of­fice.

A splash pad would be cheaper – $265,000 – and would be ac­ces­si­ble to peo­ple with phys­i­cal hand­i­caps, as well as accommodating a wider range of ages, vil­lage of­fi­cials said. The mayor said trustees dis­cussed the wad­ing pool’s con­di­tion and the splash pad al­ter­na­tive at sev­eral board meet­ings and work ses­sions, which are open to the pub­lic. “No one ever comes to the meet­ings; only when there’s a prob­lem,” said the mayor. “That’s the prob­lem.”

But an idea that made sense to vil­lage of­fi­cials cre­ated an un­ex­pected up­roar.

“The wad­ing pool was a ma­jor thing. It’s been in the vil­lage for 55 years,” said Linda Ostem­powski, a life­long res­i­dent who was the high­est vote-get­ter in last month’s elec­tion. Of­fi­cials “made a de­ter­mi­na­tion that it needed an up­grade, and they took it out. The bot­tom line is you need to give us a voice. In a ma­jor project of this na­ture, we want in­for­ma­tion. We weren’t given that in­for­ma­tion.”

Ostem­powski, 67, and Kregg,

49, ran on the Sloan Cit­i­zens Party line, run­ning on a prom­ise to do some­thing to bring back the wad­ing pool. On the other side was two-time in­cum­bent Bayes, run­ning on the Peo­ple’s Choice Party line, who was in fa­vor of the splash-pad-for-wad­ing­pool trade.

This was Kregg’s se­cond at­tempt to get on the Vil­lage Board; she ran a write-in cam­paign for mayor two years ago.

“I had no grandiose thoughts that I was go­ing to be mayor, but peo­ple say they don’t vote be­cause the races are al­ways un­con­tested, so what’s the point?” she said.

Bayes, 52, said she stands by her sup­port of the plan to build a splash pad where the wad­ing pool was.

“The wad­ing pool was quite an old piece of equip­ment. We painted it ev­ery other year. It didn’t look bad. It did ev­ery­thing it’s sup­posed to do,” she said. “We saved com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment funds over the years be­cause we knew we had to do some­thing about the pool.”

The wad­ing pool that is at the cen­ter of de­bate in Sloan in­stantly be­came a des­ti­na­tion when it opened in the mid-1960s.

Over the years, res­i­dents brought their chil­dren and grand­chil­dren to the pool. Book-ended by play­grounds, pic­nic ta­bles and rolling lawn, then-Grif­fith Park of­fered fam­i­lies an af­ford­able way to spend sum­mer days. But like many other mu­nic­i­pal out­door pools in Western New York, the cost of main­tain­ing it led elected of­fi­cials to ques­tion what should be done with it.

They thought they had a so­lu­tion. In­stead, they had an elec­tion that made his­tory when two can­di­dates each fin­ished with 114 votes.

Erie County Demo­cratic Chair­man Jeremy Zell­ner said that re­sult proves the ax­iom: Ev­ery vote counts.

“Th­ese things hap­pen in smaller com­mu­ni­ties and more of­ten in pri­maries,” he said of the tie. “Whether it’s ab­sen­tee or af­fi­davit, if peo­ple want their voices heard, they need to vote. I’m sure there’s a lot of peo­ple in Sloan who wished they had voted.”

Even if they didn’t, they’ll have an­other chance this week.

Sharon Can­til­lon/Buf­falo News

Vil­lage of Sloan run­ning mates Jen­nifer Kregg, left, who will be in a runoff elec­tion for trustee this week, and trustee Linda Ostem­powski are in fa­vor of the wad­ing pool.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.