A Concession Stand Conversation

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 A Concession Stand Conversation, May 2017

At any Knox event you will see proud students, parents and community members gathering at the top of the hill, sitting on bleachers, or enjoying the bridle path. They are there to see their children, grandchildren and each other. Unfortunately, there are those who can’t attend these meaningful events because accessibility remains an issue at Knox Field.

Throughout the years, when attending events at Knox Field, and at capital project meetings, community members have expressed frustration with the available facilities. Residents and visitors attending athletic contests, public fireworks displays, and other community events held at Knox must make the long trek past the playing field and over to the junior high school using various staircases and corridors to eventually reach the bathrooms. This is a long and cumbersome journey for those with disabilities or aging bodies, or even for young parents juggling toddlers and baby strollers. In response to this community concern, a new restroom-equipped concession stand was included in the capital building project that was approved by voters in 2014.

The new building will provide restrooms that are more convenient for the community and are accessible to those with disabilities. It will replace the existing concession stand, a small wooden out-building with no running water. New electric, water and sewer services will be established to allow for restroom facilities, as well as more convenient and sanitary preparation and serving of concessions. More importantly, the new facilities housed in the concession building will allow more of our community members to celebrate with their families and their neighbors at Knox Field.

Recently, some members of the public have questioned the cost of the restroom-equipped concession stand at Knox. Others have wondered if this has any relationship to our recently proposed school budget tax levy increase of 3.5%. The concession stand is part of a previously approved district-wide capital project, and it is not related to the school budget. Though they are separate items, it is hoped that this information will provide clarification.

On December 9, 2014, residents of the Johnstown School District went to the polls and voted overwhelmingly in favor of a $39.6 million dollar capital project that addresses structural, mechanical, and accessibility issues in the district and enhances educational opportunities in all district buildings. Though approximately 95% of the capital project work is reimbursable, 5% is not. This includes the concession stand, along with other work throughout the district, such as excavation and parking lots. The district has already arranged for the use of school reserve funds over the next 15 years to cover half of this local expense, in order to reduce the impact of this project on local taxpayers. These reserve funds, taxpayer contributions and building project budgets have already been accounted for and are not a part of the proposed tax levy increase in the 2017-18 school budget.

Unlike residential construction projects, school capital improvements have to meet the highest standards related to safety and accessibility in order to earn approval by the State Education Department. The necessity of complying with these requirements, as well as the large-scale scope of school projects in comparison to home projects, contributes to “sticker shock.” The cost to construct the Knox concession stand and restroom facilities was estimated at $450,000, just above 1% of the total $39.6 million dollar project cost. In 2007, a concession stand and two-stall bathrooms at the Johnstown High School athletic field exceeded $200,000. This was a smaller project for a much smaller venue than what is needed at Knox Field. These capital expenses are consistent with other similar projects in our district and in surrounding schools both past and present.

School construction regulations require that a competitive bidding process by bonded contractors be used, in order to ensure the best pricing and quality for the significant scope of work required for a district-wide project. The competitive bidding process was completed and contracts were awarded for this capital project in March. The bids fell well within the budget that was previously approved by Johnstown voters, and the work is underway.

The Knox Field Complex is home to Johnstown’s Sir Bills Football, Lady Bills Field Hockey, Sir Bills & Lady Bills Lacrosse, Sir Bills and Lady Bills Track & Field, Marching Bills Field Band, and Johnstown Winter Guard. The facility is the preferred site for many NYS Sectional and multi-district invitational contests. The complex has also served as the home field for the semi-pro Colonials football team and the community’s Little League Football team. The venue hosts several annual community-wide events, including the fireworks display, Johnstown elementary track & field day, and Purple & Gold Get Out & Play Day. Students graduating from Johnstown High School have enjoyed the tradition of holding commencement ceremonies on Knox Field since 1959, weather permitting. The walking path, playground area and tennis courts are open for use by the community.

Johnstown’s Knox Field complex was developed following the Board of Education’s 1928 acceptance of the generous offer by local businesswoman, Mrs. Rose M. Knox, to bear the expense to construct and equip an athletic field in the City of Johnstown. At the time of her gift, Mrs. Knox charged the Board of Education with being good stewards of the facility and maintaining it for community use. The addition of this structure will significantly improve this gem in Johnstown for the entire community to enjoy.

As a separate item, the school district has recently proposed a 3.5% tax levy increase to support the rising costs of educating our children. State education aid funding has not kept up with education expenses and so, we have appealed to taxpayers in a budget flyer that was sent to residents last week. These recurring educational expenses remain separate from the previously budgeted building project.

Dr. Patricia Kilburn, Superintendent of Schools for the Greater Johnstown School District, will be available at the following times and locations to answer questions that residents might have about the upcoming budget vote or about the capital project:

  • Thursday, May 4 at 1:15 p.m. at the Shirley J. Luck Senior Citizen Service Center;
  • Wednesday, May 10 from 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the Fulton County YMCA; and
  • Thursday, May 11 from 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 pm. at the Johnstown Public Library.

Detailed budget information can be found at www.johnstownschools.org. Interested residents are also encouraged to attend the district’s budget hearing on Tuesday, May 9th at 6:00 pm in the lecture hall at Johnstown High School.

Funding our children’s education and our school facilities is an important and complex commitment. The contributions made by our community members are greatly appreciated and valued.

 

 

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