Three hundred letters to state comptroller; Community organizes to oppose school sale
July 30, 2014 —
NARROWSBURG, NY — According to Tony Staffieri, the coalescing of the community around the sale of the Narrowsburg School is similar to the public reaction to the threats of high-voltage power lines and hydraulic fracturing coming to the Upper Delaware Valley: many members of the community don’t want the school to become a drug rehab center, and they have organized to oppose it.
Staffieri is a member of the steering committee of Narrowsburg Organized for Responsible School Usage (NORSU). He and other members met with The River Reporter on July 26 in a home in Narrowsburg.
The group has waged a letter-writing campaign to Todd Eames in the New York State Comptroller’s Office seeking a review of the bidding process related to the sale of the school because of what the group sees as improprieties. According to NORSU, 300 supporters have signed the letters.
David Holland, a Narrowsburg resident and a lawyer who is advising NORSU, said there are several “abnormalities” in the bidding process that the group is concerned with. Dr. Nancy Hackett, Sullivan West School District superintendent, said in a phone interview that a formal bidding process was not used; she said a best and final offer procedure was used, “and that may be causing some confusion.”
In any case, one NORSU concern is the 14-acre parcel connected with the ball field on Kirks Road, which at some point was included with the sale of the school. A year earlier, members of the Tusten town board inquired about purchasing the parcel from the Sullivan West School District and were told that the parcel was not for sale, but that they would be alerted if it came up for sale in the future.
Hackett said the parcel was always included as part of the sale of the building, and both bidders were so informed. She said this decision was made because in the sale of the Delaware School, separating an adjoining parcel from the school building created a problem with the sale of that facility. Further, she said the board knew the parcel would still be needed for use by the students, and both bidders agreed to that.
Another NORSU concern is that the two bidders were treated differently. The winning bidder was Joan Buto, who with her brother Robert Buto, owns and operates Changes Recovery and Treatment Center facility in North Lauderdale, FL. The other bidders were Brendan and Kathleen Weiden, who live in Narrowsburg, and planned to use the school as a community center.