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Greenport school district proposes $29.8M in infrastructure changes

Greenport Union Free School District has unveiled an ambitious $29.8 million proposal to transform the current school building, improve security and upgrade athletic facilities, among other changes. Superintendent David Gamberg presented the plan at a special Board of Education meeting Tuesday.

“This is the most comprehensive list of changes to the Greenport district,” Mr. Gamberg said after outlining the overhaul, which, if approved, would most likely begin during the summer of 2020. “Our students deserve this.”

The proposal, known as the Capital Improvement Plan, would be funded in two ways: $775,000 would be appropriated from the district’s Capital Reserve Fund, a budget for capital-related projects, and bonds would be issued to cover the remaining $29.1 million. The plan would require voter approval.  

If the proposition passes, the average household with an assessed value of $6,400 would be see a tax increase of roughly $799 annually over the 20-year life of the bonds to pay for the bonds, Mr. Gamberg said. 

Officials expect the proposition to go before voters in June 2019, a month after the regular state budget for the 2019-20 academic year goes for a vote, as per requirements from the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act.

The plan comes only a year after the district asked voters — for the third time since 2011 — to pierce the state tax cap to avoid staff and service cuts. More than 60 percent of voters supported piercing the cap last year. 

Following numerous public hearings and community input meetings beginning in November, Mr. Gamberg, the school board and Bill Wisbauer, of Tetra Tech Architects and Engineers, outlined the proposal which was presented Tuesday night.

Cost estimates for upgrades, Mr. Gamberg said, were based on a mandatory building condition survey conducted in 2015 and other previous audits.

The plan would improve security; upgrade educational, administrative, community and athletics spaces; and preserve and improve existing infrastructure.

Interior and exterior security changes would include replacement of doors and hardware, installation of  exterior security cameras and a PA system. Security upgrades account for $5.5 million of the total proposed amount.

The updates to education and administration spaces would transform the building layout, Mr. Gamberg said. Classrooms would be moved around to place elementary and high school administrative offices on the south side of the building near the main entrance.

“We just want to give you an overview, but trust me, we have a space for every displaced class,” Mr. Gamberg explained to the audience of 40 parents, teachers and community members.

A new gymnasium, wood, and automotive shop would also be in the budget. The auto shop could accommodate  students from neighboring districts, like Southold and Mattituck-Cutchogue, instead of asking them to travel over an hour to Bellport for specific programs in BOCES, Mr. Gamberg said.

Greenport athletic facilities would also be upgraded. The proposal calls for a new track, turf field, playground, parking lots, scoreboard, bleachers, concession stand and press box, as well as reconstruction of the existing tennis courts. The Southold School District unveiled its new track complex in May 2018 and officials in Mattituck have also discussed the possibility of adding a track field, although no formal plans are in proposed.

Infrastructure changes would account for $13.2 million for  new floors, masonry, walls, ceilings and lockers throughout the building. The main power supply in the school building,  manufactured in 1971, would be replaced, as would light fixtures and power panels for computer use.

Mr. Gamberg said the district would also need to consider additional custodial staff in the future to maintain the updated building.

The next step in the process, the superintendent said, is to gather final community input on the plan. Then, he said, the board will adopt a final plan for residents to vote on in June.

Community members at the meeting expressed support for the project following the presentation. 

Sandy Martocchia of Greenport said that while she supports the Capital Improvement Plan, it may be difficult to convince locals that the tax changes are beneficial to the village.  

“It’s just getting the word out to everyone in the community,” she said. “We should be on-par with all the other public schools on the East End.”

Mr. Gamberg said the board intends to update the presentation, create a brochure for residents and continue to spread a message that the project will benefit the students.

“It’s a multi-prong approach, definitely a community effort,” he said. 

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Photo caption: Superintendent David Gamberg presented the plan at a special Board of Education meeting Tuesday. (Kate Nalepinski photo)

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