05/21/13 8:55pm
05/21/2013 8:55 PM
Riverhead school board

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Riverhead school board newcomer Chris Dorr and incumbent Amelia Lantz congratulate each other on their election victories Tuesday night.

Proposed 2013-14 spending plans for the Riverhead and Shoreham-Wading River school districts passed on Tuesday.

Times/Review Newsgroup covered the results live from across the town and the North Fork.

Click the blog box below to see what happened, as it happened.

Rivehead’s budget, which does not pierce the tax cap, passed 1,520 to 1,252. Riverhead incumbent school board member Jeff Falisi lost in a three-way race for two seats, with newcomer Chris Dorr taking a seat as the top vote-getter with 1,423.

Amelia Lantz came in second with 1,270 votes and Mr. Falisi received 1,082.

A proposition in Riverhead to start a capital reserve fund passed 1,382 to 1,266 and another, related proposition to purchase land in Riverside as part of a plan for a new bus maintenance and storage facility failed, 1,183 to 1,413.

Shoreham-Wading River’s proposed budget passed 1,005 to 504. That also does not pierce the state-mandated cap on year-to-year tax levy increases.

A ballot proposition to repair the high school roofs, address code violations and renovate science labs also passed, 1,137 to 369.

Of the two candidates seeking two open seats in Shoreham-Wading River, newcomer Sean Beran took home the most votes with 1,070. Incumbent Richard Pluschau got 1,061. More than a dozen write-in candidates got 1 vote each, officials said.

Read more in the May 23 News-Review newspaper.

05/04/13 5:24pm
05/04/2013 5:24 PM
Riverhead bus plan in Riverside

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Under the current plan, buses would be leaving Enterprise Zone Drive (above) and turning onto Route 24 in Riverside.

Residents weren’t shy about voicing their frustrations Friday night over Riverhead School District’s proposal to demolish and replace the bus barn at its main campus with a new garage and maintenance facility outside Phillips Avenue School in Riverside.

Dozens were in attendance at the Crohan Center in Flanders to hear Riverhead school district Superintendent Nancy Carney address the controversial issue.

Ms. Carney called the proposal the most fiscally responsible option to replace the crumbling bus barn off Osborn Avenue, which houses the transportation and maintenance departments. First built in 1920 to house horses, the bus barn has fallen into despair. In March, the school board decided to relocate its entire 100-bus fleet and repair facility.

Moving the garage to Riverside would prevent buses from running through residential areas, Ms. Carney said.

“One of the criticisms of the Riverhead School District is that we wait for things to come to crisis before they’re dealt with,” she said. “You can basically see the sky through the roof of the bus barn. It is not a building that can be in existence a whole lot longer.”

Concerns over increased traffic the new facility would bring to Route 24 and pollution from idling buses invoked strong opposition from residents.

“I have been here 20 years and everything is being dumped on Flanders,” Flanders resident Carl Iacone said. “I think that this is something the school district is looking to dump on Flanders.”

Officials have considered using district-owned land on Tuthills Lane in Aquebogue and space at the EPCAL property in Calverton for the terminal, however both locations were found to be too far removed to be a viable option, Ms. Carney said.

“Between the carbon monoxide and traffic, I think you need to go back to the drawing board on it,” said William Shaw.

Residents are being asked to approve two propositions on the May 21 ballot to move forward with the new bus terminal.

Proposition 1 requests the creation of a transportation, maintenance and athletic fields capital reserve fund that could $10 million over 10 years.

The reserve fund’s first deposit would come from the sale of the farmland on Tuthills Lane. The district 27 acres on the east side of that road in 1965 and is now looking to sell the development rights to Suffolk County. Officials estimate the sale would generate more than $1 million.

Proposition 2 calls for using some of the sale proceeds to acquire two properties adjacent to Phillips Avenue Elementary School for no more than $480,000 combined. That land would be the site of the proposed bus barn.

James Green, a district bus driver said he has “a grave concern about traffic. You got to know that there is no way you can put all these buses on Flanders’ roads. It sounds like there is some homework you’ve neglected to do.”

Ms. Carney said Proposition 2 gives the district some options. “It is does not mean we’re going to use it as a bus garage,” she said. “It allows us to purchase the property.”

If the proposition passes, the district would need to conduct a traffic study before a bus garage could be built, Ms. Carney said.

05/03/13 11:00am
Riverhead bus plan in Riverside

TIM GANNON PHOTO | Under the current plan, buses would be leaving Enterprise Zone Drive (above) and turning onto Route 24 in Riverside.

Residents are set to speak out tonight against the Riverhead School District’s proposal to demolish and replace the bus barn at its main campus with a new garage and maintenance facility outside Phillips Avenue School in Riverside.

First built in 1920 as a barn for horses, the current structure has fallen into despair, school officials have said. In March, the school board decided it best to relocate its entire fleet of buses and repair facility.

But the location of the proposed facility has caused concern among some Riverside residents.

“The whole idea of relocating the existing facility to the Phillips Avenue grade school is in our opinion insulting at best,” Vincent Taldone, a member of the Flanders Riverside Northampton Community Association, said in an email he sent to residents on Thursday.

He complained students at Phillips Avenue School will have to look at an unsightly, “giant bus parking lot,” and “our residential neighbors should not be inhaling fumes from a fleet of buses of which only a few vehicles actually serve our community.”

The Flanders Riverside North Hampton Community Association will be joined by members of the Bayview Pines Civic And Taxpayers Association for a public forum to address the issue tonight, Friday, at the Crohan Center at 7:30 pm.

Riverhead Superintendent Nancy Carney is expected to attend.

Ms. Carney has said the plans were designed specifically to prevent buses from traveling through residential areas.

District voters are being asked on May 21, during the school budget vote, to approve two propositions on the ballot to move forward with the new bus plan.

The first will appear as Proposition No. 1 on the ballot, requesting the creation of what officials are calling a Transportation, Maintenance and Athletic Fields Capital Reserve Fund, which can reach $10 million over 10 years.

The reserve fund’s first deposit would come from a sale involving district-owned farmland on Tuthills Lane in Aquebogue. The district acquired 27 acres on the east side of Tuthills Lane in 1965 and is now looking to sell development rights at the land to Suffolk County for agricultural purposes. Officials estimate the sale would be worth more than $1 million dollars.

A second pitch, called Proposition No. 2, asks voters to use the proceeds of the sale to purchase two properties adjacent to Phillips Avenue Elementary School for no more than $480,000 combined.

One property was described by Riverhead schools superintendent Nancy Carney as a 1.4-acre “paper road” that would be purchased for no more than $55,000, and the other is for an adjoining 1.5-acre parcel in what’s called Riverside Enterprise Park — a small industrial park at the site of the old Flanders drive-in theater property. According to the proposition, the second parcel would be purchased for no more than $425,000.

Although district officials don’t plan to build anything on these properties, the district needs them because school buses leaving the facility would need to cross the two properties in order to reach Enterprise Zone Drive, which encircles the industrial park, and then make their way to Route 24, officials said.

cmurray@timesreview.com


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03/20/13 6:00am
Riverhead bus barn

BARBARAELLEN KOCH FILE PHOTO | The bus barn on Harrison Avenue is used for mini-bus storage and houses the Riverhead School District’s transportation and maintenance departments.

Riverhead School District officials are hoping to set in motion a long-term plan that would see the district’s dilapidated bus barn at its main campus leveled and replaced with a new garage and maintenance facility outside Phillips Avenue School in Riverside.

And officials are taking the piggy bank approach.

The school board voted unanimously Tuesday night to add two propositions to the coming May 21 budget vote, both involving replacement of the bus barn off Osborn Avenue, which houses the transportation and maintenance departments and was first built in 1920 as a barn for horses.

“The garage is in extraordinarily bad repair and will be condemned in the future,” Superintendent Nancy Carney said at Tuesday night’s school board meeting. “As a district it’s our responsibility to have a plan going forward. We don’t want to be shortsighted.”

The first proposition will ask voter permission to establish what Ms. Carney described as a savings account, which will appear in Proposition No. 1 on the ballot as a Transportation, Maintenance and Athletic Fields Capital Reserve Fund that can reach $10 million over 10 years.

The reserve fund’s first big cash infusion, officials said, would come in the form of proceeds from district-owned farmland on Tuthills Lane in Aquebogue.

The district acquired 27 acres on the east side of Tuthills Lane for $34,000 in 1965 with the intention of building a school there, according to News-Review archives. That never happened, and a plan unveiled in 2008 to build a YMCA and bus barn on the property never came to fruition either, due to opposition from neighbors.

The district is now planning to sell development rights at the land to Suffolk County, a measure that would ensure the property can only be used for agricultural purposes. After that happens, and Ms. Carney is confident it will, the district would sell the actual property to a private farm operation.

Although a potential sales price was not disclosed, the board in May 2012 unanimously approved a resolution agreeing to sell development rights at the property to the county for $1.3 million.

“This is a long-term plan [involving] the sale of the property at Tuthills,” Ms. Carney explained to the board and meeting attendees Tuesday night. “I did meet with [Suffolk County Legislator] Al Krupski last week to talk about” the county acquiring the development rights.

“He’s very hopeful to introduce legislation to do so,” she said.

The reserve fund would also be added to through other means as the years progress, and as board members allocate money and plan future budgets.

A second pitch that will go to voters in May, called Ballot Proposition No. 2, also involves the bus barn and Tuthills Lane land proceeds.

That proposition will ask for permission to use Tuthills money to purchase two properties adjacent to Phillips Avenue Elementary School for no more than $480,000 combined.

One property was described by Ms. Carney as a largely useless (development-wise) 1.4-acre “paper road” that would be purchased for no more than $55,000, and the other is for an adjoining 1.5-acre parcel in what’s called Riverside Enterprise Park — a small industrial park at the site of the old Flanders drive-in theater property. According to the proposition, that would be purchased for no more than $425,000.

Although district officials don’t plan to build anything on these properties, the district needs them if school officials want to move forward with plans to build a new garage for its bus fleet at Phillips Avenue Elementary School property.  The school buses leaving the facility would need to cross the two properties in order to reach Enterprise Zone Drive, which encircles the industrial park, and then make their way to Route 24, officials said.

Ms. Carney said the district does not want to be running buses through residential areas, and this route would be all-industrial land.

She also stressed the propositions are all about planning, and nothing would be happening overnight.

“One of the criticisms we’ve faced is that we as a district never had plans in place for long-term maintenance,” she said early on at the meeting in the Riverhead High School auditorium. “And the bus garage was something that was taken out of the [voter-approved $78 million infrastructure improvement bond]. Through this, we will be able to have a saving plan as to what to do with the bus garage.”

But, she added, given the poor state of the bus barn, she hopes a new barn does get built much sooner than in 10 years.

The school board could also decide not to build a new barn on the Phillips Avenue property, she noted.

“So, as we go forward, we can decide to choose to sell the land [in Riverside],” she said, “but in the meantime we have established a plan that makes a lot of sense. It’s cost affective and won’t affect residents.”

Experts have informed school officials it would be cheaper to build a new garage rather than rehab the old barn, she said.

Resident Doreen Moore of Calverton, who toured the bus barn and other buildings during her time on the committee that helped hammer out the $78 million improvement bond proposition approved in 2011, spoke out in support of the plans for the bus barn.

“When I went through this building, I could not believe what I saw,” she recalled. “I really think the district is doing the right thing at putting this to the taxpayers at no expense.”

Ms. Carney also explained during a presentation that the athletic fields part of the Transportation, Maintenance and Athletic Fields Capital Reserve Fund name was included because district officials ultimately hope to use the property of the current bus barn for athletic fields.

Resident and school board watchdog Laurie Downs pointed out that the land is likely laden with pollutants.

“Absolutely,” Ms. Carney responded. “That’s been looked into in the overall cost. We don’t know what we’re going to find under there.”

Ms. Carney said the bus barn had fallen into such a bad state, and is “crumbling” mainly “because it doesn’t affect students directly.”

“It’s always something we’ve pulled out of the budget,” she said, adding small measures have been made to keep the barn usable and safe. “We have a very competent maintenance staff and we are constantly making sure [things are safe] and using Band-Aids.”

In other school board news, two seats on the seven-member Riverhead school board are up for re-election this year, those of Amelia Lantz and Jeff Falisi.

Applications to run for school board are available at the district office at 700 Osborn Avenue.

The deadline for the unpaid position is April 22. Terms run for three years.

mwhite@timesreview.com