Narrowsburg School sold to highest bidder; Sullivan West Board of Education accepts Buto offer of $751,000
June 19, 2014 —
A special meeting of the Sullivan West Board of Education was called to order at 6:00 p.m. on June 19. Immediately after reciting the pledge of allegiance, the board convened an executive session, to discuss two purchase offers for the unused Narrowsburg School, one from Brendan Weiden for a multi-use community center and one from Joan Buto for a substance abuse rehabilitation center.
When the board emerged from executive session at 7:20 p.m., Board President Mary Scheutzow announced that the board had decided to accept Joan Buto’s high offer of $751,000. There was stunned silence from the twenty or so spectators, most of them Narrowsburg residents.
Several board members apologetically defended the board’s decision, insisting that state law clearly dictates that the board’s first responsibility must be to maintain the district’s fiduciary responsibility.
Rachel Brey acknowledged the considerable input received from area residents and said that it had been factored into the board’s decision-making process, but that the board’s hands were tied by law.
Joan Glase remarked that, in her opinion, both offers met the district’s fiduciary responsibility.
Scheutzow then requested a motion to direct the district’s attorney to draw up a sale contract naming Buto as buyer. The motion was made and seconded. The vote was held, and the motion was passed, but not unanimously. Joan Glase and Angela Daley voted no.
Scheutzow opened the floor to public comment.
Kathy Michelle of Narrowsburg stepped up to the microphone and identified herself as a former Narrowsburg School District board member. Claiming familiarity with the fiduciary responsibility law cited by the board as justification for its decision, Michelle maintained that fiduciary responsibility was a prime consideration of that statute, but not the only one, and that extenuating circumstances could leave it open to interpretation.
John Hector of Narrowsburg took the floor, challenging the board’s assertion that it must, by law, accept the highest bid.
Recalling a bid of $725,000 made by local farmer Dick Riseling some years ago, Hector noted that the board had rejected Riseling’s bid, in favor of a $700,000 offer. Scheutzow denied Hector’s allegation, but Hector insisted that it was true. He also questioned the board’s notion of fiduciary responsibility, asking the board how the district will fare if homeowners in the Narrowsburg area, unhappy with the prospect of a rehabilitation facility in their midst, abandon the district en masse, eroding the district’s tax base.