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Discussing next steps for a revised Capital Improvement Plan

07/22/2019 6:00 AM |

Greenport School District officials held the first of three work sessions Monday to discuss the district’s Capital Improvement Plan.

After residents rejected the proposed $23.8 million plan last month by a 23-vote margin, the district will now work to present voters with a similar, less costly bond proposal in late October.

INFRASTRUCTURE

After reviewing the failed project, board member Kimberly Moore Swann said she wrote a list of the “bare minimum of what needs to be completed in the building” and gave an estimate to other board members.

Her calculation, which isn’t representative of a finalized bond project total, was roughly $15 million. It would include renovations to the bathroom, basement, exterior masonry, classrooms, ceilings, dust collectors and ventilation, power and electric panels and flooring. Safety items included doors and locks, cameras and security systems, she said.

Other items would include lockers, a PA system, science classrooms, outside bleachers, an elementary school playground and an auxiliary gym. Ms. Moore Swann said there are ways to cut back on items in the failed bond without “cutting the integrity of the plan altogether.”

“The original bond, I would vote for any day of the week,” she said. “But the fact is, we have people who are on limited budgets and we do not want to over-burden them. We want to keep as many Porters in Greenport as we can.”

Board member Sandy Martocchia said tackling numbers too early could skew what is deemed a priority. She said there is work that has not yet been completed through the district’s $8.75 million bond project, which was approved in 2010 to fund school building repairs and improvements.

“I think we should be looking at the bigger picture items. What do we need, then branch off from there,” Ms. Martocchia said. “There was work that was not done after that last bond that needs to happen.”

SAFETY AND MAINTENANCE

Board president Daniel Creedon said he believes the bond should only address safety and maintenance issues.

“A great many people told me they would support that,” he said. “They maintain their house, their cars, everything. They understand if you don’t maintain the building, it’s going to fall into disrepair. Then the safety repairs will be even greater.”

Ms. Moore Swann later suggested the district split the vote into two separate propositions: the first proposition could potentially tackle safety and maintenance. The second, she said, could be additional renovations. But board member Babette Cornine rejected that and said it may give the public too many options.

MARINE TECHNOLOGY PROGRAM

The board also discussed gutting the Porter Marine Program. Part of the $23.8 million bond project, the program is an engineering and technology-focused initiative that would give students the opportunity to study various marine industry trades.

“I would hate to have someone come to us in two or three years and say, ‘you should have brought in the marine program,’ ” Ms. Cornine said.

Chatty Allen, a bus driver in the district, said it would be a disservice to students if the board decides to remove the marine program from the bond.

“It’s going to break my heart if you pull out on marine tech,” she said. “You have community business people who are backing this.”

Village trustee Mary Bess Phillips also voiced supported for the marine tech program.

COMMUNICATION

Tim Grattan, of Grattan Electric in Greenport, said perhaps the project’s price estimations were appropriate but the district’s communication on the details of the bond were wrong. He said the board needs to convey to the public that the priority is maintenance.

“If the communication is right, to show these people the money is being allocated to where it needs to be,” he said. “Not flamboyant things. It’s maintenance. It needs to be done and needs to be followed through with mechanics that will take care of the school.”

Ms. Phillips suggested the board improve communication on the project by providing updated, detailed information about the bond on its website and in the local paper.

“I support this school … but you need to be more clear to this community,” she said.

Thomas Spackman, who had two children that graduated from the school, said he is concerned that some people are leaving the area as house prices increase. He then suggested the district offer the community a cost-specific proposal for the bond.

“A realistic budget probably would have passed. It’s not only 23 [failed votes.] It’s the 23 votes … I really think we should think about what information you’ve presented to the community,” he said.

Two additional work sessions will be held to discuss the bond project. They are set for Thursday, July 25, at 4:30 p.m. and Wednesday, Aug. 21, at 5 p.m. The previous July 29 work session was canceled, Mr. Creedon said.

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