Narrowsburg School may be sold, while Delaware Valley retained
By Dan Hust
LAKE HUNTINGTON The former Narrowsburg School is likely headed for the real estate market.
On Wednesday, Sullivan West Central School Superintendent Ken Hilton announced at the regular board meeting in Lake Huntington that the Narrowsburg campus, which has been closed for four years, has been appraised and will be prepared for sale, including being environmentally assessed.
“Our enrollment continues to decline,” reasoned Hilton. “And the maintenance on both schools [Narrowsburg and Delaware Valley, which is also closed] approaches one-half-million dollars annually, a burden on our taxpayers.”
But the appraisal generated some heat at Wednesday’s meeting. Narrowsburg resident and Town of Tusten Councilwoman Eileen Falk questioned why the building and its 14 acres (including separate playing fields) came in at $700,000.
“After we put in $4.7 million?” she asked, referencing the renovations made to the 80-year-old building and grounds in 2002.
“We share your concern,” replied Hilton. “We wish it had been higher.”
Indeed, the district still owes about $3.6 million in principal on those renovations (and another $6 million on DV’s).
Board President Anna Niemann, who regularly conducts school audits as a CPA, explained that “it’s not unusual” for school districts to spend more on buildings than they ultimately end up being worth, being that they are heavily regulated public projects.
But Tom Prendergast, another Narrowsburg resident, pointed out that the former Beth’s Country Store just down the road had been appraised for nearly the same amount an empty store and gas station that is a fraction of the Narrowsburg School’s size and complexity.
“Appraisals are essentially black magic,” added board member Noel van Swol. “I don’t agree with the appraisal… and I am totally against selling either of the properties at this time.”
Van Swol said the coming rush to drill for gas in the area may bring with it an influx of families, leading to a need to reopen Narrowsburg.
The future of the school was also a concern to Falk and Prendergast, who noted the building sits on two acres virtually in the middle of the hamlet.
“We’ve been decimated by the closure of that school,” Prendergast lamented, worrying that whomever buys it might use it in a fashion incompatible with or inappropriate for the location.
Falk preferred the district give it away to Sullivan County Community College rather than selling it to a private entity.
Hilton acknowledged the concerns.
“That building has historic and sentimental value to the community,” he remarked. “We can’t allow that building to fall into the wrong hands.”
Niemann said the board’s Facilities Needs and Assessment Committee will be meeting next month to discuss Narrowsburg’s future. That gathering is scheduled for October 27 at 6:30 p.m. in Room 165 at the Jeffersonville Elementary School.
Also up for discussion at that meeting will be the former Delaware Valley School north of Callicoon. That campus, too, has been closed since 2005.
The Facilities Needs and Assessment Committee, according to Hilton, is informally recommending the district hang on to that school and not lease it unless it’s for the whole property.
“We are wary of leasing options at either school unless the lease is for the entire building,” Hilton said.
For DV, the reason is gas drilling, with van Swol pointing out that a Binghamton property owners group has signed a $5,500-an-acre lease with Fortuna Energy.
At 68 acres, the DV School could potentially be sitting on a natural gas gold mine, according to van Swol and Hilton, who recalled Chesapeake Appalachia, another gas exploration company, offering SW $750 an acre for a lease at DV last year.
So until the Marcellus Shale play is better understood in the area, DV will remain under SW’s ownership.
“We would feel awfully bad if we were to unload it, only to find out it’s sitting on top of a large gas field worth a lot of money,” said Hilton.
Settlement revealed in SW vs. Turner
By Dan Hust
LAKE HUNTINGTON The Sullivan West school district has settled millions of dollars’ worth of claims against the firm that oversaw the high school’s construction and existing campuses’ renovations.
For $500,000 from Turner, SW has agreed to drop all claims against the gigantic construction company, as does Turner with its claims against SW.
Claims on the $50 million project apparently exceeded $10 million, but that included other entities, and officials have not given a breakdown of specific claims.
In fact, part of the agreement, filed June 25 but only signed in the past few days, stipulates that no one at SW can talk about the settlement without written consent by Turner. Nor can any district official speak ill of Turner, and vice-versa.
In fact, had it not been for a FOIL request by the Democrat, the agreement would have remained secret, save for this statement the district was authorized to make:
“Sullivan West Central School District and Turner Construction Company have reached an agreement to settle all claims and disputes between them in order to avoid further the expense, burden and inconvenience of a protracted litigation.
“Sullivan West Central School District and Turner Construction have agreed that the terms of the settlement are to remain confidential and that the settlement is not an admission or concession by Turner of any fault, wrongdoing or liability whatsoever.”
Part of that $10 million claim, however, remains in litigation, as SW is in court with the high school’s architect, Hillier Group, for an unspecified amount.
The settlement allows for Turner employees Scott Bridie (the project manager), William Loew and Bruce Bell to testify on SW’s behalf, “chargeable at their regular hourly rates.”