December 4, 2013 —
At the Tusten Town Council meeting in November, the council members discussed the possibility of the town buying the abandoned Narrowsburg School and its 14-acre lot. The school closed and was boarded up in 2005, and is being sold by John Hector Realty.
Councilman Tony Ritter brought up the prospect, and suggested that the town could do something with the school. He said, “The location is critical, because it’s in the middle of the town. The town would control the destiny of it, whether as the landlord leasing it out, whether to salvage it, or whatever the town wants to do with it, whether we should finally decide to have negotiations with the school district and purchase that property. I’d like to hear what everyone else has to say.”
Councilman Ned Lang suggested that the town should buy the school then salvage it to collect the bond money. He said, “This is the most compelling issue this town faces, that school is the heart of our town. If there’s another culture that moves into that school, it could change the whole culture of our community.” He said that maintaining the school building would be a “huge” cost to the town, as it now costs $100,000 year to maintain it. They would also have to take into consideration repairs. Lang said the town should get some salvage companies to look at the salvage potential of the school and put a bid together. “On this board I would not want to have that school perpetuate, if we buy it; the only way I would vote to buy it is to have it removed and salvaged and put those two lots to use for community assets,” Lang said.
Citizen Morgan Puett, who was in attendance, reminded the board that there are people and groups that want to turn the school into a community building. She said, “There are several bodies of business that [could] utilize those spaces—the arts community, the farming community, the industrial community and technical community. There are a lot of creative ideas that are converging around that building and let’s not rule that out. In this decision-making process let’s have some kind of open session to have public comments about the ideas that could come forth and put that building to good use.” One group is The Solution Project. They want to use the school as a food hub for Sullivan County and also as a satellite campus for SUNY Sullivan. They made a bid to the Sullivan West School Board and were denied.
Supervisor Carol Ropke Wingert agreed. She said, “Before this goes anywhere, I won’t vote to pass anything unless we have, at the very least, a public hearing on the idea.”
Councilman Norman Meyer said that he does not want the town to purchase the school because it is a private interest. Councilwoman Eileen Falk said she would like to “see the school back again, but that is not going to happen.”
No decision was made. and the council suggested running a straw vote to see what the residents of Tusten would want to do with it.
The board approved giving Wingert authorization to sign a contract to repurpose the $106,000 grant to be used to rebuild the deck on Main Street. The town received the grant from the New York State Department of State to go toward the waterfront revitalization project. However, now that the Narrowsburg bridge is under construction, and will be for the next two years, building for the project cannot begin.
The town had discussed using the grant money instead for the deck on Main Street. They said the deck is not in an unsafe condition, but some of the beams underneath are in poor condition.