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SW Board Wrestles
With Future Plans

By Dan Hust
CALLICOON — July 31, 2001 – Noteworthy items among Thursday’s typically lengthy Sullivan West school board meeting included a report of state approval for the renovations work, a slide show of the recent high school groundbreaking ceremony, the determination of protected wetlands on the high school site, the resolution of transportation for 100 Narrowsburg campus high schoolers to Jeffersonville, one board member’s deep dissatisfaction with the building project, and the reinstatement of the Democrat as the district’s official newspaper.
Renovations to Move Forward
Mac Rawley of the Hillier Group, the school’s architect, updated board members on a significant part of the $50 million building/renovation project at Sullivan West.
“We have verbal approval on the plans from the state education department,” he said, speaking of the $21 million worth of renovations to be conducted at the three campuses. “They’ve basically told us the project is complete.”
Luis Rodriguez of Turner Construction Company, the school’s management firm, added that Narrowsburg’s bids would likely be awarded by November, with the other two campuses in Callicoon and Jeffersonville following shortly thereafter.
“It’s the best time to do the bids,” he explained. “That’s when the guys [construction companies] want to get their projects in.”
Busing a Complex Issue
But there’s more to the Narrowsburg situation than renovations, as Transportation Director Les Krum and Business Manager Betsy Mc-Kean have been working on a plan to bus 100 9th-12th graders to Jeff while renovations are completed in Narrowsburg.
(They’ll never return to Narrowsburg, however, which will become a K-6 facility. Some of them will one day go to the high school under construction in Lake Huntington.)
To keep the bus riding time to about an hour, Krum told the board he’d have to route some students through Bethel – and that was just one of several complexities Krum and McKean had labored through during the past few weeks.
Some transferring will occur, and a schedule will be sent out to parents soon, said officials.
Wetlands Are Protected
The Lake Huntington high school site has an added complication, too, as the Army Corps of Engineers has deemed a portion of the swamps on the property as protected wetlands, said Rawley.
Several other areas of swamp could be eliminated, according to Rawley, but only if they are re-created elsewhere.
Thus, Hillier and Turner proposed a plan to the board to add the “moveable” wetlands to the protected area in the central western portion of the site, which would necessitate moving two baseball fields and three soccer fields.
It will take three weeks for Hillier to come up with a finalized plan for the wetlands, and board members asked how much it would cost. Rawley and Rodriguez were unsure but finally – and reluctantly – estimated between $15,000 and $25,000 extra, which cuts slightly into the $400,000 cushion the school has between actual estimated project amounts and the budgeted figure of $28.7 million for the new school.
The Army Corps of Engineers also has to sign off on the mitigation plans.
Discontent Expressed
Although Rawley and Rodriguez had already left, board member Bill Erdmann, who had been reluctant about green-lighting the wetlands project without firmer figures, expressed his dissatisfaction with Hillier and Turner during public comment.
“I don’t have confidence in these people to push things through. I’ve lost all confidence in them,” he remarked. “I think the school is really, really needed . . . but I think we’re going too fast, too furious again.”
No one responded – unlike an earlier comment Erdmann made about the safety of the school despite a lack of a sprinkler system. Several other board members agreed with Erdmann that firewalls and water pipes inside the new high school would do a good job, be less susceptible to vandalism, and were more amenable to the state than a sprinkler system.
“Firewise, it’s not as bad as you think,” he said.
Good Memories
Local resident and longtime merger supporter Cindy Humleker brought a smile to board members’ and administrators’ faces with her slide show of the groundbreaking ceremony in June at the high school site.
Photographs featured residents and officials digging dirt, talking, and touring the site. It was all set to lighthearted music like “Here Comes the Sun,” and Humleker was thanked profusely afterwards.
Democrat Official Paper Again
And a two-week-old decision was abruptly reversed Thursday, as the board voted 6-3 to reinstate the Democrat as the district’s official newspaper, once again sharing that distinction with the weekly River Reporter of Narrowsburg.
The two votes required to make that happen were not listed on the meeting agenda, but Board President Carol Nearing said she felt “it was in the best interest of the school district to bring it up for a vote.” This decision, she said, was made after discussing it with the school’s attorney and some fellow board members, who, said Nearing, had reconsidered their earlier decision.
Thus, a vote was held to rescind the prior vote to drop the Democrat as the official paper, and another was held to reinstate the Democrat. Both passed 6-3, with Rick Lander, Rich Sandler and K.C. Garn continuing to dissent.
Vice-President Jeff Nober and Donna Sauer-Jones changed their votes, although no reasons were given. Nober could not be reached, and Sauer-Jones declined comment when contacted yesterday to discuss the vote.

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