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Greenport scraps turf field from capital improvement plan

03/27/2019 8:36 AM |

A turf field will no longer be included in Greenport Union Free School District’s proposed Capital Improvement Project. 

Eliminating the turf field further reduces the highest possible cost for the project to $23.8 million. The change came after consideration of community feedback, district officials said.

About 60 people attended the third of four public hearings on the project Monday night, when Superintendent David Gamberg revealed the latest price reduction on a project first proposed in February as costing as much as $29.8 million. The district outlined less costly options that excluded athletic improvements, such as the turf field, at follow-up meetings.

It’s likely, Mr. Gamberg said Wednesday, that the plan will have two separate ballot items for voters. One voting piece would approve the bulk of the interior changes, totaling $21.2 million. The second option, which would include upgrades to the tennis courts and track, would add on an additional $2.6 million to the project. Mr. Gamberg said the $2.6 million cannot be approved without voters first approving the $21.2 million.

Mr. Gamberg said officials have been taking community comments into consideration since the Feb. 5 meeting at which the project was first outlined.

“And it’s much more than new bathrooms and new lockers,” he said. “It’s connected to the community, it’s connected to who we are.”

School board president Babette Cornine said the board will vote on the final project proposal the week of April 8. A final public hearing will be held before the board’s vote. Residents would then vote whether to approve the project in June, in a vote separate from the regular May budget vote.

An updated breakdown of projected tax increases to cover the cost of the bonds was not provided.

Ms. Cornine said the district has received bids to repair one of the damaged men’s bathrooms in the school, which plans to be renovated this summer.

Bill Wisbauer of Tetra Tech Architects and Engineers, which is partnering with the district, explained that bids for the project are determined by the lowest responsible bidder and are unrelated to the location of the bidders.

William Swiskey, who has expressed his frustration with the bond project at previous meetings, suggested the district push back the dates on the bond project and tackle only the damaged bathrooms over the summer. He said the district can delay the date of the bond project.

“You’re acting like you don’t have options — and you do,” he said.

But Mr. Wisbauer said because the plan needs to be approved by the state before voter authorization, the project cannot be delayed.

Greenport High School senior Colin Rossetti, who runs the district’s historical society club, provided community members with the historical context of the building. He’s immersed himself in the history of Greenport, he said.

“Nearly 90 years have gone by since the construction began on our current school building,” he said. “Many things have changed in that time. What has not changed is the importance of a safe and modern school facility.”

Village Trustee Doug Roberts said: “Can you help us understand how good we have it on our taxes now compared to the buildings around us? Help us understand the relative way in which are taxes are not brought up over the years … Can you help us quantify this?”

Mr. Gamberg said the district is working to find the historical increment of taxes, but it’s difficult to nail down a comparison between other communities.

“There is a general sense that in the 1990s, before there was a tax cap, that there were a series of budgets that were either at $0, I believe in the early 2000s there was a negative budget,” he said. “Tax base does differ in one community versus another … and is based on years and years of change.”

In response to Mr. Roberts’ statement, Mr. Swiskey said if the project is approved, it might frustrate older Greenport community members who are struggling financially.

Mr. Gamberg said if the project is not passed by voters, the buildings and grounds committee will consider alternative options.

“The plan is to go back to the drawing board, and try to consider input and get the right amount for the right amount of work that needs to happen,” he said.

Correction: An earlier version of this article states upgrades to the tennis courts had been removed from the proposal. Those upgrades are still included.

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