No. 6 Story of the Year: School bonds passed in Greenport, voted down in Southold


In Charles Dickens’ words, “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times,” for local officials who asked voters to approve bonds to fund public projects in 2010.

In October, Southold taxpayers turned thumbs down on a proposal to bond up to $6 million to pay for a $7.1 million addition to their library. The balance was to come from contributions. Voters said no by a vote of 582-402 and it was back to the drawing board for the library, according to its director Caroline MacArthur.

But then Greenporters in December delivered an early Christmas present, voting resoundingly in favor of two bonds — one for $7.48 million for major repairs to the 1938 school building and the other for a $1.27 million green energy initiative. It will include a 50 kilowatt solar system on the school roof and a 250 kilowatt wind turbine on the northwestern edge of the ball field. The vote was 371-55 in favor of the building bond and 332-90 in favor of the green energy bond.

In Southold, the library’s board of directors had put building expansion plans on the back burner for more than two years because of the recession. But this year, the board hoped that, with some early signs of an economic turnaround, it might move forward. No sooner was a vote announced to approve a $7.1 million bond than critics said the library was big enough and it was not the right time to hit taxpayers with an estimated $18 per $1,000 of assessed valuation increase in their taxes. Ultimately, it proved to be more than most Southold voters could swallow.

In Greenport the bond wasn’t for expansion, but critical repairs, including replacement of a 38-year-old boiler and a new roof. Superintendent Michael Comanda succeeded easily in selling what he called a “no fluff” bond to the community.

School Board members, fearing too many voters would object to the green energy project, broke it out from what had originally been a single bond of $8.75 million. But taxpayers said yes to both initiatives, drawing a big sigh of relief from Mr. Comanda and board members.