More concerns arise over $78.5 mil school bond proposal

VERA CHINESE PHOTO | Representatives from BBS Architects & Engineers discuss a multi-million dollar plan for districtwide upgrades with school board members Tuesday night.

Riverhead school board members spent the bulk of Tuesday night’s almost 3-hour meeting scrutinizing parts of a preliminary, $78.5 million plan for infrastructure upgrades and improvements at district buildings and grounds.

School board vice president Greg Meyer and board member Angela DeVito were especially outspoken, questioning things such as classroom placements, overcrowding issues and the number of entrances that would be added to the high school under the plan.

Presented to the board last month, the plan is the final recommendation by the Community Partnership for Revitalization, made up of district employees and community members.

The board will ultimately decide on a final plan to present to taxpayers before a vote, which will likely take place sometime this fall.

To execute the plan, a bond will be paid for with taxpayer money over a period of 20 years. School district superintendent Nancy Carney has said the district can also use up to $3 million in an emergency repair funds for the project, bringing the total bond to just over $75 million.

Assistant superintendent for finance and operations Joseph Singleton also told the News-Review at the meeting’s end that the district did not receive a $5 million state grant to help pay the bond’s interest.

Architects with the Patchogue-based BBS Architects & Engineers, the firm that designed the plans, said at Tuesday’s meeting some concerns could be easily addressed, while some could add millions of dollars to the project’s cost.

Mr. Meyer said he was especially troubled by the lack of gym space at the high school and said he would prefer to see a second gymnasium built. “I think the district is in dire need of [a second gym],” he said Tuesday night.

Roger Smith of BBS said such an addition would cost somewhere around $4.5 million.

Ms. DeVito said as a way of adding more gym space she would rather the district consider restricting community use of the school’s facilities to make room for school groups.

“[We should] perhaps not allow such heavy scheduling,” she suggested.

Board member Kathy Berezny said she was concerned that pre-kindergarteners would be placed in portables at Phillips Avenue Elementary School, and she asked if it was possible to add walkways to connect the modular classrooms to the main building.
Mr. Smith said that, too, would increase the project’s cost.

“We could develop a drawing for you and get you a price,” he said.

However board president Ann Cotten-Degrasse, who participated on the bond committee team, said she preferred the plan as presented.

“Personally, I’d like to see the board accept that recommendation,” she said. “We need to move forward with this project.”


The board also accepted the resignation of former custodian Troy Trent. The meeting agenda, released to the public earlier this week, originally said Mr. Trent would be terminated Tuesday night, but was amended by board members at the meeting’s start.

Mr. Trent was indicted in February for his part in a Riverhead-based cocaine ring, according to the Suffolk County District Attorney’s officer. The arrest was made after a year-long investigation by the East End Drug Task Force. He has pleaded not guilty to a second-degree conspiracy charge.

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