By Greg Klein THE COOPERSTOWN CRIER
---- — As expected the Cooperstown Central School Board of Education referred its capital building project back to committee during its Dec. 18 meeting as board members expressed optimism that the project would be brought back up for a vote and pass in 2014.
“I have heard a lot of the people in the district, I am sure a lot of have, apologize for not voting,” Mary Leonard, BOE vice president, said.
The Dec. 11 resolution failed to pass after the final tally was a tie, 180 to 180. A winter storm may have limited voter turnout. Similar special votes in 2005 and 2007 drew 1,719 and 857 voters respectively.
Board member Tony Scalice said that he has been involved with four or five special votes, and he thought this project was the strongest one in terms of directly helping students.
“This one has more effect on programming and education that any one I have been part of,” he said.
Scalice said that he was not disparaging the needed maintenance of facilities, but that he felt strongly that parts of the project such as a new technology wing should go forward quickly.
“If nothing else, I think we should forward with that if we can save a year,”
he said. “A year is a very long time, in terms of technology,”
Board member Marcy Birch said that she thought the price of the $6.6 million project was hard for struggling voters to approve.
“Primarily in my neck of woods, the feeling I got was that people are stretched very thin,” she said. “Looking at raising the tax rate, raising it was very difficult for them right now.”
Superintendent C.J. Hebert said that he thought there was a lot of confusion about the project that helped cause ill will toward it.
“I think there was a misconception in the timing of the vote,” he said. “It wasn’t an attempt to put something past people while they were distracted by holiday activities. In actuality it has a lot to do with getting State Education Department approval and getting things out to bid at a time of the year when you can get the (fairest) prices.”
Board president David Borgstrom said that if nothing else, the tie vote should be an opportunity for students to learn the principle that every vote is important.
“I hope the students learn from this,” he said. “I hope (Government teacher) Mr. (Jeff) Snyder uses this as an opportunity to teach that every vote counts. It does make a difference. What a wonderful opportunity for participation in government.”
Borgstrom also said that he though that some parts of project, such as repaving parking lots, and creating a drop-off lane at the Elementary School will have to go forward sooner rather than later.
“The issue is safety,” he said. “We have had injuries in the past. It is more than a beatification thing.”
Added Hebert, “we have a deteriorating sub-base. If we don’t address it in a timely manner, then we will lose the whole thing.”