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Batavia residents speak out on proposed athletic field improvements.

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2013 9:16 a.m. CDT

BATAVIA – Residents for and against a plan for an estimated $13.4 million in improvements to Batavia High School’s athletic fields packed Tuesday’s Batavia school board meeting.

Most attending the meeting spoke out against the plan, including Batavia business owner Joe Marconi. He was worried that the plan would increase taxes even more.

“My fellow retirees need that extra money to live on,” said Marconi, addressing school board members.

Gerry Dempsey, chairman and CEO of Batavia Enterprises, also spoke against the plan.

“I hope you reconsider,” Dempsey said. “That amount of money in this economic environment is a lot of dollars.”

Mike Popela, president of Batavia Youth Football, spoke in favor of the plan. The group uses the fields in addition to other groups.

“Some of the facilities haven’t been upgraded in years,” he said. “It is a gathering place. That’s what we hope to continue to make it.”

Popela said the idea is to raise funds to pay for the improvements. He said all the stakeholders paid for a portion of the proposed master plan for the athletic fields.

Batavia school board President Cathy Dremel said the proposed improvements are only a vision.

“No money has been spent,” Dremel said. “Nothing has been done yet.”

School board members in July approved the improvements, part of a proposed master plan for the fields. Pat Browne, the district’s director of buildings and grounds, has said there is no timetable for the project.

The plan was developed after meetings with groups that use the athletic fields, school district administration, maintenance staff and school board members.

Chicago-based architectural, engineering and construction firm Wight & Company came up with an estimate of $13.4 million for the project.

That amount includes $4.5 million for the high school’s football stadium, including installation of a synthetic turf field and improvements such as bleacher seating for 2,500, a press box, a scoreboard and stadium lighting.

As proposed, trees in an arboretum on the athletic fields would be removed to make way for the improvements.

City arborist Frank Saupp has voiced opposition to the plans.

“It is my opinion that this site represents one of the best presentations of tree types to be found anywhere in the city of Batavia as it currently exists,” Saupp said.

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