Mattituck-Cutchogue residents air out track bond proposal concerns

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10/19/2013 2:30 PM |
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | The current condition of Mattituck High School's track. Residents will be asked on Oct. 29 to approve the district's proposed $925,000 track bond proposal.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | The current condition of Mattituck High School’s track. Residents will be asked on Oct. 29 to approve the district’s proposed $925,000 track bond proposal.

While some Mattituck-Cutchogue School District residents are hoping voters will approve a bond proposal for a track upgrade, others are expressing concerns over the costs and plans to maintain the track over time.

About a dozen people attended the district’s informational meeting Thursday night to discuss the upcoming track bond proposal vote with residents. The vote is set for Oct. 29 between 3 and 9 p.m. in the gym.

Mattituck parent and Riverhead dentist Thomas Hoeg pleaded with audience members during the public comment portion of the meeting and asked them to approve the bond project.

“We need this track, badly,” he said. “I can’t even run on it. I run on the grass.

“I’m not even going to call it a track. It’s a joke.”

The community has debated on what to do with the cinder track for several years and many school board members have said they believe it’s time to let the public weigh in on the proposal. In August, the school board voted 5-1 in favor of putting up the $925,000 track bond proposition. Sara Hassildine was absent from the meeting and Doug Cooper voted no.

Officials have said the estimated cost to install a new all-weather, polyflex track over the existing facility will cost about $675,000. The remainder of the bond would go toward purchasing portable bleachers and irrigation upgrades ($50,000), perimeter sport netting ($40,000), sidewalks ($15,000) and asbestos remediation work inside the school ($25,000).

It also includes a $120,000 contingency budget. Some fees, such as architecture and legal, are lumped into the contingency budget, district business administrator Michael Engelhardt said.

Superintendent James McKenna said the asbestos remediation project was added into the bond because the state will reimburse the district 10 percent of the entire cost of the project since that type of work is also included in the proposal.

Sidewalks are needed in order to make the facility handicap accessible, he said, and netting is a safety precaution to block lacrosse balls or other equipment from entering the track while it’s in use.

Mr. McKenna said nearly 15 percent of the high school’s 800-student body participates in track and a new track would allow them to hold home meets. The community would also be allowed to use the facility, he said.

Although the bond proposal doesn’t include a pole vault runway, athletic director Gregg Wormuth said it does include runways for triple jump, long jump and high jump competitions.

Dr. Hoeg suggested the school board release details about how much the district will save in transportation costs if the new track proposal is approved since all of the team’s meets are currently away meets out of safety concerns. He also said a reduction in labor costs will lead to savings because district employees wouldn’t have to weed the area and paint stripes around the track anymore.

As for estimated tax increases if the bond passes, Mr. McKenna said the yearly increase over 15 years would range between $8 and $12 for houses assessed between $400,000 and $650,000.

“If that’s all my tax bill ever went up a year, I wouldn’t have an issue with it,” said Mattituck resident Marie Domenici, who is running on the Democrat ticket for Southold Town Assessor. “But I’ve said I want to live in my house until I die and the way my taxes are going up I’ll be dead in three weeks.”

Other residents asked why a maintenance plan and costs associated with preserving a new track weren’t included in the district’s mailing about the track bond proposal.

Mr. Wormuth estimated maintaining the track involved a nearly $15,000 resurfacing project every five years. School board president Jerry Diffley said maintenance costs will be rolled into the district’s annual budget.

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