09/27/14 8:00am
09/27/2014 8:00 AM
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The current crop of kindergarten students in the district joined the high school seniors in assisting school board president Jerry Diffley as he cut the ribbon Friday. (Credit: Grant Parpan photos)

As she walked from her car to the Mattituck High School athletic fields, Laurie Reilly held back tears.

She was headed to a once familiar track at the school, where her three grown daughters had run. But this time was different.

Ms. Reilly was one of more than 500 local residents who attended a ribbon cutting ceremony Friday evening at the school’s brand new track — an all-weather, polyflex running surface that has replaced the former cinder track that long stood at the school.  (more…)

01/25/2014 10:00 AM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | The Mattituck-Cutchogue School District wants the community to pick the new track color.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | The color options that the community is choosing between for Mattituck’s track.

The Mattituck-Cutchogue School District wants the community to pick the new track color and, so far, the blue track with gold stripes option currently has a commanding lead over the five other choices. (more…)

01/16/2014 2:59 PM
GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Shannon Dwyer, a pentathlon veteran, working on her hurdling during Mattituck's practice last March.

GARRET MEADE FILE PHOTO | Shannon Dwyer, a pentathlon veteran, working on her hurdling during Mattituck’s practice last March.

The Mattituck school board is expected to announce which track color the district will settle on at Thursday night’s regular meeting, according to the agenda.

Last month, district business administrator Michael Engelhardt said the track color choices include: black, green, red and blue.

Although many school board members’ ears perked up when he mentioned blue was a choice (since the school’s colors are blue and gold), Mr. Engelhardt suggested they go with a different color because the shade of blue the track comes with is more like a baby blue. He added red is the most popular color for track facilities.

[Related: One student’s dedication helps make new track a reality in Mattituck]

In addition to the track color, the school board is also expected to discuss track construction plans.

Voters approved a $925,000 bond in October to replace the defunct cinder track with a new facility suitable for the team to host meets. Since then, the district has been hit with $30,000 in unforeseen costs because the makeup of the soil under the existing track is “not compactable,” Mr. Engelhardt said.

About 2 1/2 feet under the entire length of the track needs to be dug up and refilled before the new all-weather, polyflex track is installed, he said.

Scroll down to view the complete agenda. Check back for an update.

Mattituck-Cutchogue school board meeting agenda, Jan. 16

11/09/2013 12:00 PM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Mattituck High School senior Kyle Freudenberg, right, and PTA vice president Jeanine Warns shortly after the bond vote passed. Both have rallied community support for a new track.

Kyle Freudenberg is known throughout her school as “the track girl” — and not just because she competes on the track team.

Since eighth grade, the 17-year-old Mattituck High School senior has campaigned for a new track to replace the school’s aging track, a dusty, bumpy cinder circuit that’s been deemed unsafe for home meets.

After researching Suffolk Times video and articles about the track’s condition, Kyle’s determination to convince the school and community to replace the track strengthened. Her commitment to the effort began to creep into her classwork, surfacing in debating exercises and a mock letter to the editor assignment that was eventually published in the paper.

In ninth grade, Kyle began attending school board meetings when she saw the track discussion on the agenda. Finally, during an August 2013 meeting, the school board voted in favor of putting a $925,000 track bond proposition before district voters.

Kyle said she was ecstatic about the news and worked to rally support for the bond by contacting parents she met over the summer while she volunteered as a soccer coach.

The days leading up to the Oct. 22 vote found Kyle feverishly emailing and texting parents and teachers who live in the district. She plastered fliers around the office at Strong’s Marine, where she works part-time, detailing the track bond proposal. She also created a Facebook event to promote the vote, explaining how the track could improve the community’s quality of life.

“I felt the ‘no’ votes would definitely show up and we just needed the ‘yes’ votes to get there,” she recalled during an interview this week. “Everyone was like, ‘We get the point, Kyle’ and people would start telling me, ‘Don’t worry, Kyle. My whole family will be there voting.’ ”

All of Kyle’s hard work — along with that of other community members who have rallied for a new track for nearly two decades — ultimately paid off. The track bond proposal passed by a vote of 777 to 386, including about 200 newly registered voters.

Cutchogue East Elementary School parent and PTA vice president Jeanine Warns said she and a group of parents purchased yellow “vote yes” lawn signs to raise awareness that the community could benefit from a new track, too.

“The time was right,” Ms. Warns said when asked why she believes the bond passed. “There has been a lot of people working on this for the past 15 to 20 years. The community supported it and most of the school board was open to it.”

School board vice president Charlie Anderson and retired Mattituck coach Jim Underwood were a part of the original group rallying support for a new track.

Mr. Anderson said he began supporting the cause after his son, Scott, now 26, competed in track.

“As the school has been modernized, it seems the track was always neglected, even though a lot of students went out for track,” he said. “I’m glad it passed and am looking forward to seeing it done.”

Track has gained in popularity in recent years. School officials have said nearly 15 percent of the high school’s 800 students participate in track.

Several years ago, Mr. Anderson helped form a group called Mattitrack. They hosted the community’s first Turkey Trot and held several other fundraisers for a new track. But Mattitrack was only able to generate $15,000 after numerous events and folded within a year.

Mr. Underwood, who retired in 2010, said the track’s original coal cinders were provided by LILCO (now LIPA) and the rocky surface proved to be most difficult to practice on, especially during hurdle races.

“As a coach, I was always known as the guy who had the only cinder track on Long Island,” Mr. Underwood said. “It was cute, but it got annoying when people would ask ‘When are you getting a track?’ ’’

Mr. Underwood said the rocks were removed in the 1990s and the track has remained in its dirt form since then.

“Even though a new track didn’t happen during my time there, I think it’s a good step forward for the North Fork,” he said about the bond passing.

Ms. Warns said she’s pleased the bond passed by a nearly 2 to 1 margin and believes a new track will open a “floodgate” of new opportunities, including a school marching band, breast cancer awareness walks and other community events.

Mattituck athletic director Gregg Wormuth agreed, saying he believes the bond’s passage was the result of the school board, administration and community working together.

In recent years, he said, Mattituck has competed in a league with Babylon, and Greenport high schools and The Ross School, which also lack competition-level tracks.

During track season, the teams compete together three times in either Southampton, Westhampton or Center Moriches, he said.

“I think the most exciting part of having a new track is getting to see our students compete on their own turf,” Mr. Wormuth said. “They’ve never competed among their peers. Some of their peers have never seen a track meet. It’s an opportunity for them to show what it is they do.”

Mr. Wormuth said all students in grades K-12 will have an opportunity to use the track during physical education. In addition, NJROTC students and all student athletes will be allowed to use the facility, as will as community members when school isn’t in session.

Officials have estimated the cost of installing a new all-weather polyflex track over the existing surface at about $675,000. The remainder of the bond will go toward purchasing portable bleachers and irrigation upgrades ($50,000), 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.

Construction is expected to start in June. Officials estimate it will take about three months to complete.

Kyle, who hopes to attend Villanova University after graduation, said that although she won’t get an opportunity to compete on the new track as a high school athlete, she has no regrets about the time and effort she put into getting the bond passed.

“I wanted to finish what I started,” she said. “Wherever I am, I’ll be back to see it finished.”

[email protected]

10/29/2013 9:40 PM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | From left, Mattituck-Cutchogue school board member Jeff Smith, parents Jeanine Warns and Terri Boyle Romanelli the moment the track bond vote results were announced Tuesday night.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | From left, Mattituck-Cutchogue school board member Jeff Smith, parents Jeanine Warns and Terri Boyle Romanelli the moment the track bond vote results were announced Tuesday night.

The Mattituck-Cutchogue School District will get a new running track next year.

District residents voted 777-386 in favor of the $925,000 track bond proposal during a special vote Tuesday night in the high school gym. Of that total, there were 49 absentee ballots cast, with 34 voting yes and 15 voting no.

Superintendent James McKenna said he’s “thrilled” the bond was approved.

“This will be a wonderful asset for the school and community,” he said.

Senior Kyle Freudenberg was also excited about the track bond proposal passing.

Although she won’t get to enjoy it during her final school year at Mattituck High School, she said she’s pleased others will get to enjoy the new facility.

“I’ve been pushing this since eighth grade,” she said. “I’m so glad it passed.”

Officials have said the estimated cost of installing a new all-weather, polyflex track over the existing facility is 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.

Mr. 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, including 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.

As for estimated tax increases, Mr. McKenna said the yearly increase over 15 years would range between $8 and $12 for houses assessed at $400,000 to $650,000.

Construction is expected to start in June. Officials estimate the project will take about three months to complete.

[email protected]

10/28/2013 7:00 AM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | The existing cinder track at Mattituck High School would be replaced by an all-weather track if voters approve a $925,000 bond proposal Tuesday.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | The existing cinder track at Mattituck High School would be replaced by an all-weather track if voters approve a $925,000 bond proposal Tuesday.

Inside the bondWhile 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.

[Editorial: The Suffolk Times weighs in on Mattituck’s track bond proposal]

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.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO |

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Mattituck athletic director Gregg Wormuth provided information about the track bond proposal during the Oct. 17 school board meeting.

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.

GARRETT MEADE FILE PHOTO | Mattituck senior Desirae Hubbard during an away track meet last season. District officials said the new track would allow the school to host home meets

GARRETT MEADE FILE PHOTO | Mattituck senior Desirae Hubbard during an away track meet last season. District officials said the new track would allow the school to host home meets.

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.

[email protected]

10/24/13 9:00am
10/24/2013 9:00 AM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | The existing cinder track at Mattituck High School would be replaced by a synthetic track if voters approve a $925,000 bond proposal Tuesday.

We understand why you’d grumble any time a local school district puts a bond proposal up for a vote. We all pay enough in taxes and the vast majority of what we do pay already goes to the schools.

So it’s easy to see why some residents of Mattituck and Cutchogue would automatically want to reject a $925,000 bond proposal to build a new synthetic track at the high school.

When weighing the merits of a bond issue, however, it’s important to consider its benefits as well as its impact on the wallet. A high school track can certainly be of importance to the health of many members of a school community — not just the varsity athletes who will use it most — especially at a time when obesity rates in the U.S. are higher than ever before. But as our society becomes more health conscious and life expectancy continues to lengthen, public funding of easily accessible recreational opportunities for people of all ages will only become more vital.

Considering this, paying roughly $10 a year for 15 years to have a track built at your local high school doesn’t seem too much to ask. And let’s not pretend a quality running track — better than the cinder track currently in place at the school — is not commonplace at high schools everywhere.

We suggest that, should the measure gain approval Tuesday, the Mattituck-Cutchogue School District do its part to ensure that the new track remains a public benefit, available for community use and appropriate public events.

Additionally, one noteworthy development in recent months has been the end of an agreement between the Mattituck and Greenport school districts that allowed the Porters track teams to practice in Mattituck. While some might argue it’s not the responsibility of Mattituck-Cutchogue residents to pay for a track used by students from another school district, state aid increases given to districts participating in shared-service agreements might have made a sustained pact financially beneficial to Mattituck-Cutchogue School District taxpayers. For example, Senator Ken LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) awarded $150,000 in state funding to the Southold and Greenport school districts this year in an effort to further various shared-service plans between them. Coincidentally, the state aid hike came after Greenport and Southold agreed to create a joint track team this year.

Mattituck school officials have said the decision to end the agreement with Greenport was based on a rule from Section XI — the organization governing high school sports in Suffolk County — stating that a school district must provide its own facilities if it has enough students to form a team. That may be the case but we suspect a plan that would allow students of outside districts to use Mattituck’s track for practice might also have made it even more challenging to get the bond proposal approved by district voters. It seems that might have been just as big a factor as compliance with Section XI rules in the district’s decision to end the arrangement.

All that said, we believe an up-to-date new track would enhance not only the experience of many Mattituck-Cutchogue high school athletes but the overall health of the community as well. That makes this bond worth supporting.

10/19/2013 2:30 PM
JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | The current condition of Mattituck High School's track. Residents will be asked on Oct. 29 to approve the district's proposed $925,000 track bond proposal.

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | The current condition of Mattituck High School’s track. Residents will be asked on Oct. 29 to approve the district’s proposed $925,000 track bond proposal.

While some Mattituck-Cutchogue School District residents are hoping voters will approve a bond proposal for a track upgrade, others are expressing concerns over the costs and plans to maintain the track over time.

About a dozen people attended the district’s informational meeting Thursday night to discuss the upcoming track bond proposal vote with residents. The vote is set for Oct. 29 between 3 and 9 p.m. in the gym.

Mattituck parent and Riverhead dentist Thomas Hoeg pleaded with audience members during the public comment portion of the meeting and asked them to approve the bond project.

“We need this track, badly,” he said. “I can’t even run on it. I run on the grass.

“I’m not even going to call it a track. It’s a joke.”

The community has debated on 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 voted 5-1 in favor of putting up the $925,000 track bond proposition. Sara Hassildine was absent from the meeting and Doug Cooper voted no.

Officials have said the estimated cost to install a new all-weather, polyflex track over the existing facility will cost 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).

It 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 into the bond because the state will reimburse the district 10 percent of the entire cost of the project since that type of work is also included in the proposal.

Sidewalks are needed in order to make the facility handicap 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-student body participates in track and a new track would allow them to hold 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 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 out of safety concerns. He also said a reduction in labor costs will lead to savings because district employees wouldn’t have to weed the area and paint stripes around the track anymore.

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 between $400,000 and $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 on the Democrat ticket for Southold Town Assessor. “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.”

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 maintaining the track involved 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.

[email protected]

10/17/2013 4:30 PM
BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Mattituck High School track team members (from left) Anna Goerler, Tracy Grim and Caitlin Penny could only use their deteriorated home track for practice.

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | Mattituck High School track team members (from left) Anna Goerler, Tracy Grim and Caitlin Penny could only use their deteriorated home track for practice.

The Mattituck-Cutchogue School District will host an informational meeting tonight to let residents know about its upcoming track bond proposal vote.

District residents will be asked on Oct. 29 to approve the proposed $925,000 capital improvement project for reconstructing the junior-senior high school’s aging cinder track, which is estimated to cost about $675,000. The remainder of the bond would go toward purchasing portable bleachers, irrigation upgrades, perimeter sport netting, sidewalks and asbestos remediation work inside the school. It also includes a $120,000 contingency budget.

School officials have said the state will reimburse the district about 10 percent of the total cost since the plan also includes asbestos remediation work.

As for estimated tax increases if the bond passes, district officials have said the yearly increase over 15 years would range between $8 and $12 for houses assessed between $400,000 and $650,000. The new all-weather track would also be open to the public during non-school hours, school officials have said.

The community has debated on what to do with the track for several years and school board members have said they believe it’s time to let the public weigh in on the proposal.

In August, the school board voted 5-1 in favor of putting up the track bond proposition. Sara Hassildine was absent from the meeting and Doug Cooper voted no.

Thursday’s informational meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. and will take place in the high school auditorium, one hour prior to the regular school board meeting.

[email protected]