While some residents in the Mattituck-Cutchogue School District are hoping voters will approve a bond proposal for a track upgrade, others are expressing concerns about its cost and about a plan for maintaining the track over time.
About a dozen people attended the district’s informational meeting on Oct. 17 to discuss the upcoming track bond proposal vote, which is set for Tuesday between 3 and 9 p.m. in the high school gym.
During the meeting’s public comment portion, Mattituck parent Thomas Hoeg pleaded with audience members to approve the bond proposal.
“We need this track badly,” he said. “I can’t even run on [the existing track.] I run on the grass.
“I’m not even going to call it a track. It’s a joke.”
The community has debated 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 members voted 5-1 in favor of putting up the $925,000 track bond proposition. Board member Sara Hassildine was absent from that meeting and Doug Cooper voted no.
Officials have said the estimated cost of installing a new all-weather, polyflex track over the existing facility at 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).
The proposal 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 to the bond because the state reimburses 10 percent of the total cost of capital improvement projects that include asbestos remediation work.
Sidewalks are needed in order to make the facility handicapped 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 students participate in track and field and a new track would allow them to host 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 that 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. He also said a reduction in labor costs would lead to savings because district employees would no longer have to weed the area and paint stripes around the track.
Mr. McKenna said after the meeting that transportation for spring track (both boys and girls, junior high and varsity) cost more than $10,000 last year. He estimated the district could save about $5,000 if meets were split equally between home and away.
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 at $400,000 to $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 for Southold Town assessor this year. “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.”
Ms. Domenici has suggested that instead of floating a bond, the district promote fundraisers and secure corporate sponsorships to pay for the project.
Mr. McKenna said a group called Mattitrack was formed several years ago and was only able to generate $15,000 after numerous fundraisers.
“It was used at the time to refurbish the track with a comparable substance that is on the track today,” he said.
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 that maintaining the track would require 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.