Update, Friday October 25: Following a meeting on Wednesday between Dr. Carl Bonuso, district architect Larry Salvesen and members of the community who had voiced their concerns over the proposed bond’s parking lot plans, all parties are hopeful that an understanding has been reached and discussions will continue moving forward.
“I’m really hopeful,” said resident and parent Ken Dorph, a leader of past traffic calming efforts throughout the village. “I really appreciate Carl and Larry opening this to communication. I support the new proposal. I think it’s great that they responded so quickly.”
According to Dr. Bonuso, the conversation alleviated concerns over encroachment on green space – in particular on the hill at Pierson Middle/High School – and indiscriminate culling of trees that he felt were a result of miscommunication over the bond’s plans. Dr. Bonuso stressed that all elements of the bond proposition are conceptual schematics and that should the bond pass, further modifications are possible.
The group discussed moving the position of the entrance to the Jermain Avenue lot at Pierson and adding a sidewalk, which Dr. Bonuso said is “something we would absolutely look into.”
“We just wanted them to know that we’re open and we’re listening,” said Dr. Bonuso on Friday. “What we’re doing is going to be so much safer for our kids and for the community at large and if we can improve upon it even more, we’re absolutely open to it. What is the most unsafe thing to do is to keep it the way it is and do nothing, that’s not an option as far as we’re concerned.”
“I was very, very pleased,” said Dorph, calling the possibility of modifications “great news for the bond because it will bring in people who were concerned.”
The Board of Education will discuss possible alterations at their business meeting on Monday, which will be held at 7 p.m. in the Pierson library.
“For all practicality purposes,” explained Dr. Bonuso. “The major things they’re seeing – that’s exactly what’s going to happen. On the other hand, there are some important tweaks, preferences and options that are going to be considered and we’re not going to leave anyone out of the conversation.”
By Tessa Raebeck
At a “casual conversation” Monday night regarding the Sag Harbor School District’s bond propositions, members of the community voiced their concerns over some aspects of the proposed capital projects while championing others.
Following the failure in 2009 of a bond proposition that included variations of many of the projects currently being proposed, the Educational Financial Planning Committee drafted two separate propositions at a total cost of nearly $9 million.
Proposition 1, at the projected cost of $7,357,132, includes core renovations to the school’s infrastructure (HVAC, plumbing, etc.), renovation to the Pierson Middle/High School auditorium and construction of support facilities, renovation to the Pierson shop/technology classroom, expansion of the Pierson kitchen, a storage room addition in the gymnasium at the Sag Harbor Elementary School and restoration/reconfiguration of the parking lots at both Pierson and the elementary school.
Proposition 2 calls for the installation of a synthetic turf field and two-lane walking track at Pierson. It will be voted on separately and has an estimated cost of $1,620,000.
The bond vote will be held in the Pierson High School gymnasium on Wednesday, November 13 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Community members are invited to attend a bond fair this Saturday from 10 a.m. to noon in the Pierson gymnasium, where members of the EFPC, architects and other experts will be on hand to answer questions.
At Monday’s “Supe’s On” conversation on the bond, interim superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso, members of the committee and representatives from the board of education discussed the propositions with residents.
Community member Bob Plum asked whether the propositions took into account future enrollment projections.
“We did run them out to 10 years,” replied Dr. Bonuso. “It looks like we will probably be at the same enrollment.”
School business administrator John O’Keefe explained that by putting these capital projects into a bond rather than the annual budget, the district is taking a large expense and “spreading it evenly over 15 years.” He compared the bond to a home equity loan, calling it a mechanism for borrowing because the bond will be paid through budgets in subsequent years via debt service payment, which means families moving into the district would share their burden of the costs.
“That makes it a uniform and consistent number without spikes up and down each year,” explained O’Keefe. “The state, since you’re doing it through a capital project, gives us additional aid and the district will get back 10 cents for every dollar we spend.”
Several village residents who live near Pierson said while they understand the need for many of the proposed projects, they would not vote for the bond due to the parking lot plans.
“Why is the parking lot scheme essentially the same as the one that was defeated four years ago?” asked Carol Williams.
“I’ve always supported the schools, I would vote for all of this except for that darn parking,” said Gigi Morris, who was vocal in her opposition to the same plan put forth in the 2009 bond. “It seems to have all the problems that it had four years ago.”
Pierson teacher Peter Solow, who has served on the EFPC since the early 90’s, replied that his car has been hit three times in Pierson’s parking lots. A neighbor who lives across the street from Pierson, Jerome Toy, said his car has also been hit in front of his house.
“We had an expert evaluation of both the Jermain lot and what was going on at the elementary school,” said Solow, adding that the experts concluded, “that these lots were significantly unsafe, that they were hazardous and that we needed to somehow reconfigure them so that they would be more safe for the people using them.”
“I agree that the parking lot near the high school is dangerous and needs to be reconfigured,” said Ken Dorph, a parent in the district who is opposed to the parking plans as they stand. “I feel very strongly that one of the reasons the bond went down last time was because of parking. A lot of people who desperately want to get the bonds to the school voted against it because of parking.”
Chris Arbia, a member of the EFPC, said the 2013 plan “adds quite a bit of green space” that would act as a barrier and said if the school tried to bring emergency vehicles into the Jermain Avenue parking lot as it stands, “you’re in trouble.”
Solow said although it may have been politically advantageous to separate the parking lot reconfigurations from the rest of proposition 1, the committee felt it should be included because their priority was health and safety.
“To be fair, I think the reason we got to these same parking lots that were proposed in 2009 is we had a couple configurations that we looked at and these are the ones that made the most sense,” added Ellie Janetti, a community member who served on the EFPC. “They’re the only ones that allowed for emergency vehicles to get in and out. That I think is why they’re the way they were in 2009 — there aren’t that many options.”
Dorph asked how long it would take to reissue another bond should the current bond fail to pass due to concerns over parking. School board trustee Daniel Hartnett said it would take up to two years and asked the committee whether there was room for tweaking the plans should the bond pass. Dr. Bonuso and O’Keefe confirmed small changes could be made. Dr. Bonuso said additions such as sidewalks, which community member John Shaka called for at Monday’s meeting, could be implemented through the annual capital budget.
“You’re asking your taxpayers to get involved and I want to know what I’m paying for,” said Toy.
Athletic director Todd Gulluscio explained Proposition 2 to the room, noting that the venture is not just for sports, but also for recess, physical education and the enjoyment of the larger community. The savings in maintenance costs and the ability to use the field year round make this a logical and cost-effective improvement, he said, adding that the field has a warranty of about 12 years.
“Just in talking to East Hampton — they happen to have a turf surface — their injuries went down significantly,” Gulluscio said. “Short of thunder and lightening it’s game on, we’ll be able to play on this surface in a safe manner whereas the way we play now, we’re slopping around in the mud taking our chances.”
If both propositions are passed, the cost to a taxpayer on the Southampton side of the Sag Harbor School District with a home valued at $1,000,000 is projected to be $10 per month or $120 per year, according to the district. For a taxpayer on the East Hampton side of town with a home valued at $1,000,000, the cost is projected to be $10.48 per month, or $125.76 per year.
“Bottom line is for the money we’re talking about, the changes we’re talking about this could make a real difference,” said Dr. Bonuso, who encouraged all community members to communicate their concerns to the district. “We’re trying to be very cognizant of being good neighbors as well as being good custodians of this campus.”
On Tuesday, Dr. Bonuso invited the concerned residents to meet with him and district architect Larry Salvesen on Wednesday to tour the parking lots, discuss the plans and “think through some tweaks.”
“We certainly have the flexibility to work with them on it and to do something,” the superintendent said Tuesday.