SHERIDAN - It is always about image. Villages, towns, cities - and even the schools - want the offices and buildings in their respective municipalities to make an impression with residents and visitors.
Look no further than the town of Dunkirk, which has a population of around 1,100 residents. For years the entity has considered building a new town hall, noting the current one has outlived its usefulness.
That may be the case, but some estimates for a new town hall could total $1 million.
This photo, provided by Town Board member Glenn Reed, shows work taking place on the former St. John Bosco church in Sheridan.
Are you kidding? We're talking about a very small town, not a metropolis.
In the town of Sheridan, where the population is around 2,650, the end of an era for the St. John Bosco Roman Catholic Church paved the way for renovated offices and the town hall. Appraised around $220,000, the church was sold to the town in 2009 for $160,000. Since then, another $260,000 of taxpayer funds has gone into the church and the former St. John Bosco hall for upgrades.
Those who work for the town are beaming - and they should be. It is a major upgrade from previous working conditions, which were at Route 20 and Center Road and housed in the former Odd Fellows location. The town took over the building in 1974.
It is also a source of pride for Town Board members Glenn Reed and Richard Feinen. The two gave me a personal tour of the new facility, which has plenty of highlights, including:
Court being held in the former church chapel, still complete with pews for those awaiting their time in front of the justice.
Improved offices for the town clerk, with much more space and elbow room for her staff.
More handicap accessibility, especially with the assessor no longer holding offices on the second floor.
More parking for those who need to do business with the town - or show up for court.
Parking, by far, was the most important of the talking points by both Feinen and Reed on a recent Monday in June. The new facility's location makes it less hazardous for those stopping by the town offices. At the former location, there was limited parking, which led to numerous safety issues.
"We identified a very crucial need, which was off-road parking," Feinen said. "That whole new complex is going to be around $400,000. You couldn't build one building nowadays for $400,000."
Reed, who is a relative newcomer to the area, first became involved with the town as a concerned citizen. He was upset with the quality of his water at his home, which is fairly close to Lake Erie. Once he became an engaged citizen, he was working with Feinen on getting the new town offices in shape.
But the church option was not his first choice. "Buy an empty lot and build it to your taste," he said. "There were things here we did not anticipate."
With the help of Cope Builders, the improvements at the facility are nearly complete. On the day of my tour, a locksmith was working on creating one master key.
Right now, however, Feinen and Reed say town residents are pleased with the offices - and comfortable with the changes in the former house of worship.
"Anybody who was a parishioner in that church really likes the integrity that we kept with the facility," Feinen said. "We did not dishonor the building at all."
Reed also has a sense of reward - with the renovations and his hometown. "I enjoy it and met some great people," he said. "I feel more at home here than I did in the other place I lived for 36 years."
Countdown to sale
Our annual special edition OBSERVER sale to help benefit work-related projects for adults with disabilities at The Resource Center takes place on Wednesday. The newspapers cost $1 and will be available mainly in the Dunkirk, Fredonia, Silver Creek and Forestville areas.
Over the past seven years, more than $13,000 has been raised. The sale will go from 6 to 10 a.m.
John D'Agostino is the OBSERVER publisher. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 366-3000, ext. 401.