June 13, 2014 —
LAKE HUNTINGTON, NY — There was standing room only in the high school library for area residents, many of them from Narrowsburg, who attended the June 12 meeting of the Sullivan West Central School District Board of Education. They were there to influence the board’s pending decision on sale of the Narrowsburg Central School building and grounds, which have been unused by the district for nine years. As of the meeting’s start, Tuesday, June 17, was the deadline for a sale decision.
One of the two bidders vying to purchase the school was present. First to speak during the opening public comment segment, Brendan Weiden read a prepared statement introducing himself as a lifelong resident of Tusten, noting that the Weiden family has had roots there for several generations, and explaining that he and his wife, Kathleen, have recently invested an enormous amount of time and money restoring his family’s historic Excelsior Mill on Swamp Pond Road in Tusten. Speaking for about three minutes, Weiden outlined the couple’s vision for use of the school as a multi-use community center hosting educational, arts, agricultural and fitness activities and events that would serve the community as a whole.
The other bidder, Joan Buto, who plans to turn the school into a substance abuse rehabilitation center, was not present at the meeting.
Several additional speakers who identified themselves as Narrowsburg residents addressed the board during the public comment segment. Although this was clearly an emotional issue about which all felt passionately, there was no drama. Calm, thoughtful speech and behavior was the order of the night.
Realtor Kathleen Hector of Narrowsburg made a plea to the board to extend its deadline, so that all parties concerned would have adequate time to conduct due diligence studies, adding that no one should enter into a real estate sales agreement without full knowledge beforehand of all circumstances and provisions affecting the sale.
Kathy Michell of Narrowsburg supported the Weiden proposal, citing the Weiden’s generations-deep knowledge and love of the area and considerable investment of time and money in preserving its history and character.
Dick Riseling of Callicoon Center, co-owner of Apple Pond Farm and Renewable Energy Center, asked the board to postpone any sale decision until both bidders could make their respective cases to the public and build consensus.
Carol Wingert, supervisor of the Town of Tuesten, also pleaded for a decision deadline extension, so that buyers could perform due diligence studies. Noting that neither bidder’s stated plans are fully compliant with existing town zoning regulations, she hoped that additional time for bidders to study the situation might avert a situation similar to that experience by a former potential buyer who eventually walked away from the sale.
Ron Scheuren of Narrowsburg, a former high school science teacher at Narrowsburg School for over 40 years, said that he hoped the school’s gymnasium could be used again as a venue for basketball games—the men playing on Thursday night and the women on Wednesday night.
However large the school sale issue, it did not overshadow the emotional departure of two school board members. Angela Daley has devoted over 20 years and thousands of hours of her time and energy to the Narrowsburg and Sullivan West districts.
Graduating senior Joe Campanelli has spent the last year as the board’s student representative. Both have made enormous contributions to the district and both were mentioned in tribute by all fellow board members.
Following adjournment, the board went into executive session, to consider extending the sale decision deadline.
[Statements from both bidders are printed on page 7.]