School Board Fails to Adopt Contract For Parking at St. Andrew Church

The parking lot behind St. Andrew Roman Catholic Church.

On Monday, the Sag Harbor School Board of Education failed to carry a four-vote majority to approve a proposed three-year contract with St. Andrew Roman Catholic Church for the use of 12 spaces in the parking lot behind the Division Street church. According to the resolution on the Board of Education’s agenda, the contract would call on the district to pay $500 per month for the 12 spaces, located across the street from the district’s Sag Harbor Learning Center in the former Stella Maris Regional School building on Division Street.

Board members Diana Kolhoff, Jordana Sobey and Alex Kriegsman voted in support of a resolution approving the contract — despite the latter two admitting concerns about some of the language in the agreement — with Susan Lamontagne and Chris Tice voting against the resolution. Board members Brian DeSesa and Susan Schaefer were absent from Monday’s meeting.

Prior to the vote, board members debated some of the language in the contract, including a provision that does not allow commercial vehicles to use the 12 spaces. Ms. Tice said she was also concerned about an outstanding question about the district’s financial responsibility outside of the $500 monthly fee, noting the contract suggests it could also be responsible for covering real estate taxes, and wondered why the district would need to execute the contract in the summer months for use by construction crews working at the Learning Center if commercial vehicles were prohibited.

“They don’t want commercial-sized vehicles,” said Superintendent Katy Graves, who said the diocese, which negotiated the contract on behalf of the locally-operated church, was concerned about oversized vehicles being parked in the lot.

“Shouldn’t the language be different,” asked Ms. Tice, noting there are parents who drive their children to school in vehicles with commercial license plates. Ms. Graves said the diocese would not change the language and that the district could use the 12 spaces for staff parking — freeing up street parking closer to the Learning Center for parents.

“We have a lot of people down there right now and they are congesting the streets of Sag Harbor, which is what we told the people of Sag Harbor we would not do,” said Ms. Graves, referring to construction crews, some who are not driving commercially licensed vehicles and could utilize the spaces.

“My understanding is this was supposed to be sorted out a long time ago,” said Ms. Lamontagne. “It wasn’t. It was also supposed to be a free or nominal fee.”

Ms. Graves said that while those who run the church locally wanted to make it nominal, the diocese negotiated the agreement taking into consideration land value in Sag Harbor. Ms. Lamontagne said that unclear language like that involving commercial vehicles made her reluctant to move forward.

“I think the point about the commercial vehicles is a valid one,” said Mr. Kriegsman, an attorney. “I understand that is what they told you, but that is not how it reads.” Mr. Kriegsman also raised a concern over a liability or indemnification provision, which he said could leave the district liable if someone is injured in the lot at no fault of the district. While he praised the district for its negotiations, he asked if there was room for revision.

“I can try,” said Ms. Graves, who indicated the process has been challenging, noting an agreement was reached six months ago before it was set aside by the diocese, which opted to draft its own contract.

“I know this has been three years in the making and our attorneys have been working on this for a long time and I feel like it is one of those as good as it gets kind of things,” said Ms. Kolhoff, stating she was comfortable moving forward with approval Monday night. Ms. Sobey said while she would like some questions answered, she was also comfortable moving forward and perhaps asking for an amendment to the contract to address concerns that were raised. She also noted the district is able to leave the contract with just 30 days’ notice to the diocese.

While Mr. Kriegsman appeared to be on the fence, he ultimately voted to approve the resolution with Ms. Kolhoff and Ms. Sobey, although they did not have the majority needed for approval.