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A win for Greenport as voters approve revised bond by wide margin

Voters in the Greenport School District approved a revised $17.18 million capital improvement bond Tuesday.

After voters rejected a $23.8 million bond in June by just 23 votes, the turnout on the smaller plan wasn’t nearly as close. Just past 8 p.m. Tuesday, the results printed out showing 409 voters approved the bond compared to 240 who voted against it.

Superintendent David Gamberg tossed a paper in the air as he read the results and exclaimed: “Not even close!”

The total turnout was similar to the June vote when 354 residents voted no and 331 voted yes. At the time, school officials described that as a record turnout.

In an interview after the vote, Mr. Gamberg held back tears as he said: “Thank you Greenport, let’s start with that. This is very well deserved. I’m happy for the students, staff, families — everybody.”

With the bond approved, the district will apply $1 million from its capital reserve fund to lower the total cost, meaning that $17.18 million of the total $18.18 million cost will be bonded. Mr. Gamberg had said the planned upgrades will touch “a great many areas of the physical building to bring it into a healthier, safer, better learning environment.”

Greenport Elementary School Principal Joseph Tsaveras commended all the work that went into updating the bond since June.

“I’m very excited,” he said. “I think the first time there were a lot of questions that needed to be answered. I think we all felt defeated. When you put together this bond, and it went through with flying colors, it’s pretty exciting.”

Board member Babette Cornine said when she walked into the gym, it was a “totally different environment” compared to June.

The tension from the last vote was gone, she said.

“People were coming in and out with their children and it was much different than the first time we did it,” she said. “Mr. Gamberg had gone to Peconic Landing. They totally backed us, The Suffolk Times backed us and I think people just understood more than originally. I’m just so excited, I don’t know what to do.”

Board member Kimberly Moore Swann excitedly swung her young son around in the air and then said she “absolutely elated” that the bond passed.

“We have a lot of work cut out for us and I am excited to hit the ground running,” she said. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime chance to make this school what I know it’s capable being — which is the Mecca for all small schools. Thank you so much Greenport.”

Fellow board member Sandra Martocchia described the process of revising the bond as nerve-wracking. She said now the students will have a building to match all the great work they are already doing.

Greenport Teacher Association president Rebecca Lillis had urged the board in October to maintain the $17.1 million total and to not lower the bond any further and make further concessions. She said the teacher’s association worked hard “behind the scenes” to promote the bond, by making phone calls, sending out robocalls and informational postcards. They also met in person with different community groups.

“We had a little more time to get the information out there,” she said, compared to the June vote. “The board of ed worked really hard, Mr. Gamberg worked really hard, so it’s exciting.”

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