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May 9, 2018 11:45 AMPublication: The Southampton Press

Southampton District Officials Try To Clear The Air About Administration Building Proposal

Southampton School District residents will vote on May 15, whether to allow district officials to purchase 50 Narrow Lane for the purpose of administrative officies. GREG WEHNER
May 9, 2018 11:56 AM

Low attendance at a handful of public forums and concerns about “misinformation” in paid advertisements and letters to the editor of The Press that were critical of a $5.2 million plan to purchase a Southampton Village home and convert it into administration offices have Southampton School District officials scrambling to get their message out to registered voters before the plan is voted on next week.

Dr. Nicholas Dyno, the superintendent of the Southampton School District, said the letters and advertisements urging voters to reject the district’s plan have contained inaccurate information.

“I’m disheartened about the neighbors’ comments, because I think what’s being put out there are untruths and misinformation that are misleading in many ways,” Dr. Dyno said last Thursday, May 3.

To address the critics, Dr. Dyno and members of the School Board have held multiple public forums over the past two weeks. Despite staggering the times and locations of the meetings to try to accommodate as many people as possible, attendance has been low at times, and the crowds have rarely included parents of students in the district.

A copy of the presentation was placed on the district’s website, but Dr. Dyno said he still worries that false information will prevail.

The district is in contract to purchase the property at 50 Narrow Lane, near the high school, for nearly $2.3 million from John Pace Jr. and Donna Marie Pace. School Board members approved the agreement in February and put down a $115,000 deposit, which is refundable if voters reject the purchase as part of the regular budget vote and school board elections on Tuesday, May 15.

Voting will take place from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m., at the Southampton Intermediate School music room.

On top of the $2.3 million, district officials are proposing to spend an additional $2.9 million to renovate the house into an office building, making the total cost $5.2 million. The renovations include filling in a backyard pool and creating an addition—which in some areas will be two stories—between the home and the garage. It would include office space and an elevator to ensure the office is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The conversion also entails gutting and refitting the house for offices, paving parking spaces, and installing new HVAC and sanitation systems. The total cost includes legal fees, consulting fees, engineering fees and planning services.

Once renovated, the 4,000-square-foot residence will be a 7,200-square-foot office building.

The purchase and renovation would be paid for with money set aside in a 10-year capital reserve fund, currently totaling about $8 million, so the project would have no direct impact on district residents’ tax bills. But the money in the capital fund cannot be spent on the project without the approval of voters in a referendum.

Dr. Dyno said talks of moving the administrative staff, which include 22 paid employees, into a new district office began years ago, when the current offices—located in temporary classroom structures, which were designed for only a few years of use, but have been used for nearly a half century—began to deteriorate.

In 2012, the School Board began looking at the possibility of building a 17,000-square-foot, two-story building with a basement on the northwest corner of the high school ball fields, near the intermediate school parking lot. To build on that particular location, Dr. Dyno said, two baseball fields and two soccer fields would have had to be moved and shrunk, which could affect their use.

After several public meetings on the topic, School Board members chose not to present the nearly $8 million option to the public for a vote, because talks of a merger with Tuckahoe School District were taking place, and the move might have created more space. The merger was eventually rejected by voters.

In 2015, School Board members looked at four options: finding available space within the district, building a new structure on the current site, leasing office space, and purchasing an existing structure in Southampton.

The key criteria that was considered by district officials was that the size of the building needed to be 17,000 square feet, close to the schools and ADA-compliant, and the construction disruption had to be kept to a minimum. District officials also evaluated factors such as the cost of leasing space during construction, architects, engineers, landscapers and furnishings, and financial flexibility.

The final proposal then was to purchase an office building on Hampton Road for $7.75 million. But district voters rejected the purchase.

In October 2017, board members sought input from the public and asked about properties for sale that were in close proximity to the schools and had approximately an acre of land. Nearly 50 sites were submitted to the district—a number that was quickly narrowed down to 20.

After closely evaluating the sites, the district narrowed them to three: 97 North Sea Road, 200 North Sea Road, and 50 Narrow Lane. The district also looked at a property at 120 Leland Lane, but it was taken off the market when the owner reached a deal.

Of the final three properties, Dr. Dyno said, board members settled on the Narrow Lane home because of its close proximity to the school. The two properties on North Sea Road were far enough from campus that they feared that, with heavy seasonal traffic, travel between the office and the schools could take between 20 and 30 minutes.

This time around, like in 2015, board members looked at other options, like building on the existing footprint, constructing a modular administration building on the current footprint, and purchasing a property.

If the district were to build on the existing property, Dr. Dyno said, it would cost $5,467,198, but the district would also need to lease office space for administrators for three years, at a cost of $420,000 bringing the total to $5,887,198. The building would be 9,063 square feet and include a basement.

Dr. Dyno said the cost of building a modular administration building on a triangular piece of property would be $5,195,939, and, again, the district would have to lease space for three years at $420,000, bringing the cost to $5,615,939.

Rather than purchase a new building, Dr. Dyno said, the district could lease space—but the capital reserve fund could not be used, and taxes would go up. “The money for rental of space has to come from the operating budget,” he said. “In turn, it would increase the budget each year, which increases the taxes—and the reserve still sits there.”

That left the option of purchasing on Narrow Lane.

“It’s not only the least expensive, it’s the smartest investment for the school district,” School Board member Anastasia Gavalas said last week.

As far as the money from the capital reserve fund, Dr. Dyno said the only other way the money could be spent would be to reduce the district’s $29 million debt. If there was any money left over, voters would be able to decide which reserve to put the money into.

Residents have expressed concern that putting the administrative offices at on Narrow Lane would increase traffic and decrease property values in the neighborhood.

School Board member Jackie Robinson said neighbors should be happy with the plan, adding that the offices will not be open on weekends, there won’t be parties at the property, and the offices won’t stay open late.

“What better neighbor in the Hamptons can you get?” she added.

Dr. Dyno said he did not expect traffic to increase. Currently, Leland Lane is a transient neighborhood, with the high school and the fire station on the corner of Narrow Lane. He said it is rare during the day that the district office gets double-digit numbers of visitors, unless there is a special education meeting.

To get to the point of putting the plan to a vote, Ms. Gavalas said the board has been very transparent, adding it would be a shame if voters reject the proposal. “It’s fiscally responsible,” she said. “It’s the smartest investment.”

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Put it on the existing foot print, 2 stories, with a basement for files etc. You can place temp offices in the NE corner of the parking lot temp. Later the offices can be reused or removed.
No rent. Brick, little maintenance as the house would be with wood etc.
Remember to vote, NO. Listen to the taxpayers...
By knitter (1621), Southampton on May 10, 18 9:33 AM
1 member liked this comment
Mr Dyno, what information that was put out was incorrect? Ms. Robinson, you are oblivious to the fact that the Pace family was probably the best neighbor one could have, quiet, polite, No parties,no late night antics, you really have a bad view of most Southampton residents and finally it looks like Jim McKenna realizes this might get hammered by the taxpayers and is silent.
By 11953guest (38), southampton on May 10, 18 9:44 AM
We need better business people on the Board. The operating budget pays for debt service. So if they leased space for $140K per year -- the lease cost number on their documents -- and moved 7MM of their reserve to buy down their debt (which the board insists is the only they can do with the capital budget money besides build new buildings), we would have a net reduction in the overall operating budget, not an increase. Simple 2 1/2 percent interest on 7MM is $210K annually, assuming they have some ...more
By Hubbell House (7), southampton on May 10, 18 10:38 AM
1 member liked this comment
I know Hampton Bays is not Southampton and I know prices have increased over time but HB built a brick administrative building with a full basement on site for approximately $300,000.00 which has served the district for over 25 years. They also purchased land abutting existing schools to build a middle school and greatly expand their athletic facilities. Who had the foresight? Just sayin’.
By Doug Penny (63), Hobe Sound, FL on May 10, 18 11:31 AM
In the 2015/2016 Hampton Bays School Budget the "Energy Performance Contract Inte" [sic] line item was $323,352. The 2016/2017 this same line item was $367,012. In the 2017/2018 current school year it's budgeted at $423,150. That's a 31% increase in a line item for what?

Don't be too sure the Hampton Bays School District is playing fair. Also, where is our $10 million that we paid a politically connected mid-Island attorney to get from the Town of Southampton for us?
By dfree (690), hampton bays on May 11, 18 7:36 AM
When have you ever seen a building proposal done by amateurs come in on the estimate? You will see cost over runs, extras and things left out to lower the estimate...
By knitter (1621), Southampton on May 10, 18 11:44 AM
1 member liked this comment
Trying very hard to understand why the District is so hell bent on getting into the real estate business. This proposal is same as the last. Full of wishful thinking & slightly twisted logic. A public school's business is to educate, not make pretend real estate "investments". Find the room to do this on the 39 acres the Intermediate & High Schools are located on.
By East End 2 (139), Southampton on May 10, 18 11:53 AM
1 member liked this comment
Ms. Robinson does not seem to understand that they are forcing a business use into a residential zone. Even worse, due to NY State regulations, because this building is used by a school, it does not have to follow any of the local zoning codes. Though every property surrounding it does. This means they can build or pave anything & everything on the property to whatever extent they ultimately desire. There is NO mechanism in place to control what they do.
By East End 2 (139), Southampton on May 10, 18 12:01 PM
They could build a modular , ADA compliant building off -site in a factory in Pennsylvania, have it trucked in and assembled on the existing site in a few days.
By fishcove (36), southampton on May 10, 18 2:28 PM
Agreed Fish Cove!!! Maybe new trailers, the employees did their work in the existing ones for decades. Just because the monies are available it doesn’t mean they must be spent !
By bigfresh (4146), north sea on May 10, 18 3:57 PM
2 members liked this comment
When you are pulling in the kind of salaries, benefits, and pensions these guys do, then only the best digs will do!
By Babyboo (264), Hampton Bays on May 10, 18 6:15 PM
Why does SHSD spend 16million more then HB to educate fewer children? Look no further then the stupidity of this deal. Take 2000 square feet out of one of the parking lots and put a two story modular house at one tenth the cost. Simple math though looking at the test scores in the district math is not their strong point
By claypit (9), speonk on May 10, 18 9:44 PM
If the district had plans years ago, they should have started saving. Vote NO. Enough of 60-70% of my taxes going for schools budgets.
By rvs (102), sag harbor on May 10, 18 10:49 PM
I don't live in Southampton so I can't vote on this and the vote result won't effect me but my experience has been that retrofitting an existing building always takes longer and costs more than forecast and starting from scratch is a far better approach.
By Rich Morey (349), East Hampton on May 10, 18 11:18 PM
1 member liked this comment
Buying a house off campus for a school district administration offices is obviously featherbedding in the extreme. The real budget line item that will bankrupt every middle class tax payer in every school district is the health insurance payments for staff -- none of the school districts work together to reduce these costs, let alone the police, the fire departments and the Town admins. Southampton Hospital, 80% financed by Medicare and Medicaid, runs an operating profit, and was taken over by ...more
By dfree (690), hampton bays on May 11, 18 7:45 AM
The district has a building on majors path! It’s empty! Put the offices there. How much would it be to put a pool in?
By jeb9900 (2), Southampton on May 11, 18 9:08 AM
@claypit - Already limited parking is one of their arguments to move.
@rvs - The district has been saving for 10 years. The reserve fund has $8M.

It's absolutely ridiculous to propose removing and replacing the existing structure should cost more than $5M...to provide offices for FOUR superintendents and suitable cubicles for the EIGHTEEN 'non-administrators' who work 6.5 hours a day. Dig a basement. Build on top.
I can't vote :(
By deepchanel (73), Hampton Bays on May 11, 18 9:12 AM
SH BOE is a spending machine. Money per student is the highest. Get the teachers to teach, students to learn.
If it passes, they may keep the POOL. Staff pool, no teachers, they are off all summer...
By knitter (1621), Southampton on May 11, 18 1:24 PM
You and your family have been on a legendary crusade of resistance against the school for as long as I can remember. You are being purposely misleading which would seem unnecessary if you possessed arguments against the project which were based on math and verifiable evidence. "Get the teachers to teach and the students to learn?" What kind of condescending, offensive nonsense is that?
By KevinLuss (356), SH on May 15, 18 9:14 AM
1 member liked this comment
This idea is ABSURD. Build on the existing school lot. Use the parking lot and construcct a parking garage to save space. And do it over the summer. Or two summers.
By InnerBay (57), Southampton on May 11, 18 3:05 PM
Not much love here for this project, GET OUT AND VOTE!!!!
By bigfresh (4146), north sea on May 12, 18 10:17 AM
2 members liked this comment
Vote YES on Prop 3 today.

Think twice before acting on the ads in the paper by a group that calls themselves Southampton Citizens For Accountable Tax Spending when they are neither Southampton nor following tax code with their tax exempt lobbying organization.

That's not a solid foundation to share authentic information in a collaborative way. The money that would be spent has been sitting in an account that is USE IT OR LOSE IT.

It is hard earned cash that was taxed ...more
May 15, 18 5:49 AM appended by KevinLuss
bigfresh,I respect your opinion and must admit to not having heard anything about the potential for a rebate to taxpayers. Best I can tell, that money is NEVER coming back to taxpayers. It's paying down debt or being deployed on a new admin building. Taxpayers are getting hosed if they don't deploy the money. Not nice to have your tax dollars confiscated and put into a fund to go unused for 10 years. That is the true waste here.
By KevinLuss (356), SH on May 15, 18 5:49 AM
Two new trailers and a rebate to the taxpayers sounds a lot better Kevin
By bigfresh (4146), north sea on May 15, 18 11:49 AM
1 member liked this comment
Rip-down and replace. YES!
Don't think they can rebate, but perhaps through permissive referendum...reallocate the funds for other uses that would directly benefit the children.
By foodwhiner (135), Southampton on May 15, 18 12:18 PM