Voters could decide on bus barn’s new location in May

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12/10/2014 10:29 AM |
The current bus ban in Riverhead. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

The current bus barn in Riverhead. (Credit: Barbaraellen Koch, file)

A new proposal to relocate the Riverhead School District’s bus barn to Calverton could appear on the May ballot — nearly two years after residents voted against a measure to move it to Riverside.

The school board approved an environmental study Tuesday of a nearly 7-acre lot located near the intersection of Edwards Avenue and Route 25. The property, which is owned by Edward Partridge, was previously used as a bus garage and currently operates as a tractor trailer facility, Superintendent Nancy Carney said. 

Ms. Carney also gave an update on the bus garage relocation process. She listed several reasons why the Calverton property is desirable, including how it’s centrally located in the district and is between Riley Avenue and Phillips Avenue elementary schools, which she said contains the most students.

Ms. Carney added that the property is more affordable than others because it has an existing garage.

“We did look at many pieces of property and came up with a piece of property that really met all the needs of the district,” she said. “Many of the other properties were either too small or in residential areas.”

The district’s current maintenance and storage facility, which is located between district athletic fields on Osborn Avenue in Riverhead, was built in 1920 to house horses and has fallen into disrepair, school officials have said.

In May 2013, residents voted down a proposition that would have allowed the district to relocate the bus garage near Phillips Avenue Elementary School in Riverside. The district later created a transportation committee, which identified the Calverton location earlier this year.

Although voters were against the Riverside location, they approved a second proposition in May 2013 to establish a Transportation, Maintenance and Athletic Fields Capital Reserve Fund that would top out at $10 million.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Ms. Carney said there’s about $9 million in the account.

A portion of that total comes from a recent land deal, she said.

In May 2012, the district sold development rights of a 25-acre property it owned on Tuthill Lane in Aquebogue to Suffolk County for $1,325,000.

Originally purchased in 1965 for $34,000 to build a school, the land was leased to sod farmers by the district for years. No school was ever built on the site. The property, which can now only be used for agricultural uses since the district sold its development rights, was sold in June for $651,000 to Paumanok Vineyards, a move that will allow the winery to expand operations.

After Tuesday’s meeting, Ms. Carney said proceeds from the sale of both the development rights and property were put into the reserve fund.

Although actual costs haven’t been finalized because the district is currently in negotiations, Ms. Carney said she believes the reserve fund has enough money in it to purchase the Calverton property, renovate it and demolish the current bus garage, which the district has discussed turning into additional athletic field space.

The next step is for the school board to approve a resolution to place the proposition before voters.

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