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History of Amherst State Park News Archives


Buffalo News,   April 14, 1998  by Patrick Lakamp

      Renovating or even demolishing the four-story motherhouse now for sale by the Sisters of St. Francis would cost Amherst less than some fear because consultants have found little asbestos or lead-based paint in the building.

       A consultant told Amherst officials Monday that only small amounts of asbestos have been detected, mostly in pipe wrapping and floor tile.

       "In a building like this, you might expect to find asbestos in the wall plaster," said Ronald J. Battaglia of Flynn Battaglia Architects of Buffalo. "If you find it there and you want to do anything, it just takes forever to deal with."

       "It's mostly good news here," Battaglia said. "We found very little in the building and none in the wall plaster or ceiling."

       Battaglia estimated the cost of removing the asbestos to be about $300,000.

       Town Board members voted in February to buy 100 acres owned by the Sisters of St. Francis, which includes the sprawling St. Mary of the Angels motherhouse, built in 1927. The property at 400 Mill St. is just north of the Village of Williamsville.

       The town is willing to pay up to $5 million for the property, but the purchase would be contingent on the state or federal governments or private sources coming up with at least half the purchase price.

       As part of its decision to negotiate a price, the town has hired a consultant to evaluate possible uses of the building and to estimate potential costs and impacts of buying the property.

       "Nothing we've found so far is a deal-buster," Battaglia said.

       How much it would cost to renovate and use the St. Mary of the Angels motherhouse could affect what the Town Board would do with the building, if the town buys it.

       Most Town Board members want the town to buy the land for a large, central park. And some residents have suggested the motherhouse could be used as the town's new senior citizens center or as another town facility.

       Council Member William L. Kindel warned against the town buying the motherhouse. He said the town should encourage outside groups to buy it.

       Kindel said he knows of three potential buyers who are interested in acquiring only the motherhouse. If that happened, the town could buy the land and create a park while letting someone else pay for renovating the building, he said.

       Kindel did not identify the interested parties, but he said one is a religious order and the other two would consider using the building for special-care senior citizens housing.

       "I believe a joint public-private plan can save this property for a park and keep the beautiful old building on the tax roll, while servicing the residents of Amherst," Kindel said.

       Battaglia's completed report is due in a couple of weeks, and he's expected to brief town officials on the costs and possibilities of renovating, mothballing or demolishing the building.

       Battaglia and town administrators said the asbestos in floor tile could be covered up or left undisturbed. An underground tunnel containing pipe wrapping with asbestos could be abandoned and separated from the property by building a wall to block the tunnel's opening.

       Battaglia said the Sisters of St. Francis religious order has kept the building in good condition. "Like they say, godliness and cleanliness go together," he said. "It's immaculately clean. You could eat off the floor."

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