Only about 15 members of the public showed up Tuesday night at Cooperstown Central School to hear about the proposed $6.6 million construction project to be voted on Dec. 11, but the ones who spoke out were skeptical of the project.
Members of the public were outnumbered by school officials and other representatives – and the crowd was nearly ten times smaller than the one which watched CCS girls basketball games down the hallway – but the skeptical residents were given the opportunity to have their concerns aired and questions answered about the project.
Questions about the size of the project, the need to tie many different projects together into one package and the timing of the December vote were all voiced by residents.
“It strikes me that the timing, honestly, to me, is suspicious,” said Pat Brady, “like you are trying to get those of us who are busy trying to write Christmas cards to ignore it while those who support it, vote for it.”
Since the bulk of the projects will not take place until 2015, several residents also asked if the vote could be delayed. However, Steve Thesier of the architectural firm Bearsch Compeau Knudson said that December is a common month for school referendums because of the need to begin construction during summer break. He added that in the past, six-months lead time on a project might have been acceptable but because of the need for state approval and putting projects out to bid, 18 months is normal now.
“We do a lot of work through New York state, and this December I know of six or seven referendums, not all of them are ours,” he said. “Time wise, December is not unusual.”
Thesier said that the State Education Department must issue building permits for public school construction projects and it is currently operating with a six-month backlog. After getting voter approval, and state permits, the school will still have to put out and award bids before construction can begin. He added that it is possible to begin certain aspects of the project in 2014, but major components such as fixing the parking lots and sidewalks have to wait until the summer of 2015.