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December 04, 2008

 

Marathon voters unsure of school project

Residents question need for building project at public hearing on revised proposal

By HOLDEN B. SLATTERY
Staff Reporter
hslattery@cortlandstandard.net

MARATHON — The Board of Education hosted a public hearing Wednesday night that at times became a heated debate on the district’s proposed construction project that was defeated Oct. 30 by a 3-1 margin.
Marathon residents did not hold back their concerns about completing a multimillion dollar project during a national recession and a state budget crisis, or their opinions that many of the items in the proposed project were unnecessary.
Based on the public input, Superintendent of Schools Tim Turecek crossed off several items from the project and said he will submit a new plan to the hired architects from Syracuse-based King and King this week for a new cost estimate.
The previous plan would have cost $14.3 million and would have been funded through $13.2 million in state aid, $100,000 in existing district reserves and $1 million in new local property taxes.
After the referendum, Turecek and the board decided to eliminate the plan to build five new classrooms and a new gym at Appleby Elementary School, because those parts of the project accounted for the $1 million in local property taxes. He said he felt the main reason people voted against the plan was the local property tax impact.
After those two pieces were eliminated, the total projected cost decreased to $9.3 million.
The board held Wednesday’s hearing to find out what people thought of the other items in the plan. Most attendees brought with them lists containing all of the items in the original plan. As board member Glen Gates read each item on the list aloud, a majority of people opposed several of them. By the end of the night, Turecek had crossed 16 of the 84 items off of the list.
The items that were crossed off include installing air conditioners in the auditorium and gym at the high school, installing automatic flush toilets with motion sensors in all schools, upgrading the soccer field surface, building a wheelchair accessible ramp, building lockers in the fifth- and sixth-grade hallways, installing a wind power generator and replacing hot water circulation pumps.
There was a consensus to install the automatic flush toilets in the kindergarten bathrooms after Appleby teacher Carol Niggli said these children have trouble flushing the toilets.
Two other items were left undecided. The first was an oil boiler, which would allow the district to use oil from its school buses for heating and buy used oil from a local company. One attendee said that if oil prices continue dropping, the cost of used oil will not decrease at the same rate as new oil, and the boiler would not be worth the investment.
Another attendee questioned the plan to install equipment for Direct TV, saying that students can access all the information and media they need using the school’s laptops.
Turecek said that if the state funding for the project decreases or is denied, the plan may need to be altered or postponed. He said the district will not go forward with a project that impacts local property taxes.
“Our pledge in this project is no local property tax impact,” Turecek said.
Michael Joseph, former school superintendent, spoke about how Marathon Central School District is heavily dependent on state aid. Turecek said earlier that this is because Marathon is the fifth poorest district in the state.
“When state assistance dies, this school district dies,” Joseph said. “You better take advantage of what we have.”
Marathon Town Supervisor Chuck Adams, in attendance, said after the hearing that many of the items in the project are necessary. He said he voted against the project in the referendum because he opposed building the five additional classrooms and new gym at the elementary school. The project failed 136-463.
Adams said he is still not sure if completing the project will be possible.
“What’s going to happen with the economy and is the state aid going to be there?” he asked.

 

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