Sag Harbor School Board Approves Parking Contract with St. Andrew

The parking lot behind St. Andrew Roman Catholic Church.

The Sag Harbor School District Board of Education narrowly passed a motion Monday night to support a contract between the district and St. Andrew Roman Catholic Church for 12 parking spaces in the church’s parking lot behind Division Street. The 4-3 decision saw board members Brian DeSesa, Susan Lamontagne and Chris Tice voting against the contract approval.

According to the contract, the spaces can be used through June 30, 2022 for non-commercial vehicles, Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. The district will pay $500 per month for the spaces, which are to be used by staff of the Sag Harbor Learning Center — the district’s new school building located across the street from the church. With the church’s permission, the district can request use of an additional space at a cost of $41.50 per month.

Last month, the board failed to pass a motion to approve the contract, with board members questioning language in the contract that called on the district — which, like the church, is a tax free institution when it comes to property taxes — to be responsible for any real estate taxes. The prohibition on commercial vehicles — some of the district’s own fleet has commercial plates — was another sticking point for some board members.

“As we discussed, it is not the best drafted contract, but it is what it is,” said board member Jordana Sobey.

Mr. DeSesa raised issue with the inability to park after 6 p.m. when many school events take place after hours. “I feel like we should have gotten the spots when we bought the building,” he said. Ms. Sobey noted the district has the ability, per the contract, to request the spaces after 6 p.m.

“It just doesn’t make sense that our own school staff can’t park there,” said Mr. DeSesa, adding that some members of the facilities crew drive vehicles with commercial plates.

Superintendent Katy Graves said the local church was approaching the diocese about that language, although she expects the pre-kindergarten teacher, assistant teachers and staff from the business office and administration — all expected to be housed in the Learning Center — to largely be the ones using the parking spaces.

“This contract has been going back and forth for several years and I think it is as good as it is going to get,” said school board president Diana Kolhoff.

“I agree,” said board member Alex Kriegsman. “I think this is not a great agreement and I wish we had gotten something better earlier, but I know when Watchcase construction was going on it was a huge burden on local businesses.”

On Monday night, the school board also passed a resolution allowing the district to add as much as $500,000 to its Facilities Renovation Capital Reserve Fund from the year-end budget surplus. That fund was established through voter approval in 2011.

According to business administrator Dr. Phillip Kenter, the $500,000 is a maximum amount the board could move into that reserve fund if necessary. “This is just a placeholder not to exceed,” said Ms. Graves. “It could be $100.”

Ms. Graves reminded the board that in order to take money out of the facilities reserve, taxpayers must approve the expenditure via a public vote.

Board member Susan Lamontagne, in her final meeting as a member of the Board of Education, opposed the motion, noting the board had recently approved over $350,000 for items at the Sag Harbor Learning Center she believed were a part of the original scope of work. “I feel like there is never an effort to give back to the taxpayers, so I raise that I am concerned about this given the $350,000 we did for Stella,” she said.

The board was unanimous in its decision to establish a Sag Harbor Union Free School District Teachers’ Retirement Contribution Reserve Sub-Fund and approved a deposit of up to $358,859 out of this year’s budget surplus into that account. That is the maximum amount the district can put into that fund, according to Dr. Kenter, and like the facilities fund is a placeholder amount for what the district ultimately puts into that reserve. Dr. Kenter said once the books for the year are closed in September or October, and the actual surplus is understood, that is when the board will look at its reserve accounts and fund them based on what is available.

In other school news, district administrators honored seven retirees leaving the school district this year. Sag Harbor Elementary School Principal Matt Malone lauded elementary school nurse Margaret Pulkingham, elementary music teacher Lisa Rice, elementary school secretary Bobbie Cohen and special education teacher Elizabeth Rasor. Assistant Plant Facilities Administrator Paul Wilkens gave thanks for retiree Matt McAree, who has been a maintenance mechanic for 32 years. Pierson High School Principal Jeff Nichols celebrated the tenure of Pierson Spanish teacher Mary “Toby” Marienfeld and teaching assistant Anita LaGrassa.