CATTARAUGUS – Ashley Wier returned to her hometown earlier this year to find out what she saw as a lack of basic community services – childcare, medical care and elderly care.
She remembered a bug her late grandmother, Joyce Manning-Gibbs, had put in her ear a long time ago that someone should fix the old Cattaraugus School at 51 Washington St., which was down the street from her house.
It’s the perfect place with space to meet some of the community’s needs, Wier thought. At 78,000 square feet, there is room for a lot of services. She bought it last month.
After having the building inspected by an asbestos contractor, built in 1926, Wier learned that it would likely cost up to $ 1 million to safely remove hazardous asbestos before any renovations to the three-story structure. concrete and brick.
Wier’s plans to renovate the old schoolhouse, which was last used in 1992, will cost an additional $ 3.5 million. She is working on grants for funding, but would need help.
Wier hired a national grants writer and began seeking support for his projects from local municipalities. She presented plans for State Senator George Borrello, and the Senator had some advice for her, which she plans to follow.
She also spoke about her plans for the building with Crystal Abers, director of the Cattaraugus County Department of Economic Development, Planning and Tourism.
Wier said she had worked in the healthcare field for 18 years, starting as a certified nursing assistant. She worked as a CNA for seven years in Salamanca and then worked for Hospice of Western New York. After living in Connecticut and Rochester, where she continued to work in health and human relations and established two businesses, she returned to Cattaraugus.
By volunteering at the trading post in the village and helping distribute food at Saving Grace, Wier saw first-hand some of the needs of the area. âAfter I got home, I could see the need for these services,â she said.
Graduated in 2004 from Cattaraugus High School, she never attended school at 51 Washington Street. It was once home to Kindergarten to Grade 12, but later it was used as a high school. The Cattaraugus and Little Valley schools then merged into Cattaraugus-Little Valley.
Wier said she realized how far area residents – including those in the Amish community – had to travel for treatment when she had to drive her mother to Buffalo. The Amish have even fewer options – medical clinics in Randolph and Salamanca.
That area of ââthe county is in need of some sort of urgent care as well, Weir said. Now people have to travel to Olean, Jamestown or Springville via secondary roads for urgent care. Ambulances have to go a long way for emergency patient care.
âWe need medical resources here,â Wier said, noting that a facility could draw on a large underserved area. âI firmly believe that this must be done. I am looking for grants.
Add child care services to the list of services families need, Wier said, as well as care for the elderly. The local senior center has closed, but no new ones have been built.
As older local residents age, more will seek assisted living, which is found primarily in urban areas. Weir thinks the third floor of the old school that she affectionately calls “Big Red Center” would make a nice assisted living facility.
The second floor could contain medical offices, veterans services, community action offices, or county offices. Child care and other services could be located on the ground floor.
Wier is also looking for ideas from the community on services they would like to see located in the old school. Contact her at [email protected]
She and volunteers recently cleaned up the old school grounds and the children were playing on the lawn. âPeople walking around were honking their horns. It was very fun.”
She would like some kind of outdoor playground when the building is renovated.
âI challenge our community to bring this together,â Wier said. âIt must be everyone. I’m not going to stop until it’s done. … Not if, but when.