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Sag Harbor Voters Reject Marsden Street Purchase

Thu, 05/18/2023 - 12:09

Difference was 75 votes; turnout was record high

Mary Adamczyk, Sag Harbor’s district clerk, left, was in charge of the vote-tallying efforts on Tuesday night for more than an hour after polls closed, until all 2,237 ballots were counted.
Christine Sampson

After several months of heated debate over the Sag Harbor School District’s controversial plan to buy five wooded lots on Marsden Street, Tuesday’s vote did not end in favor of the district. The tally was 1,081 votes in favor and 1,156 votes against — a difference of 75 as the issue drew a record voter turnout.

A tense silence fell over the gymnasium at Pierson Middle and High School, where some 50 people had gathered to watch the ballots being counted and hear the outcome. The whole school board and two former board members were in attendance, as were numerous school employees, community members, parents, and even a Sag Harbor Village police officer.

The day was an eventful one: At around 11 a.m. a fire alarm went off in a bathroom at Pierson, and the building was evacuated — save for a security guard and two employees watching over the gym where the voting was taking place.

It was “heartbreaking — a missed opportunity,” said Sandi Kruel, the school board president, “but it’s a democracy and the voters voted, so we have to accept it.”

If it had been successful, Proposition 2 would have allowed Sag Harbor to take out a 20-year bond in the amount of $6 million, and withdraw $3.425 million from a capital reserve account, to buy the five properties for a total of $9.425 million. The initial effort was centered around a joint venture with Southampton Town to use $6 million in community preservation fund money to create a sports field and related facilities with a number of restrictions in place. In March, school officials pulled out of the deal and decided to go it alone in pursuing the purchase — saying then that they were no longer limited to consider only an athletic field.

The five Marsden Street lots are the only undeveloped land contiguous to school district facilities, as they are collectively surrounded by houses and a handful of businesses.

The Star previously reported that the administration and school board clashed hard — repeatedly — with opponents of the plan, who were vocal in telling a version of the story that school officials had described as “misinformation.”

What comes next? It’s likely that the Marsden Street lots will be developed into houses. Pat Trunzo III, the builder who owns the properties under a limited liability corporation, has previously stated on the record to multiple news outlets that he is planning to refile his applications with the Sag Harbor Village Building Department should the school district’s proposition fail.

Ms. Kruel said “there’s always hope” that he will reconsider and allow the district another shot. “We haven’t even gotten to that point.

. . . We have to wait and see.”

School district voters approved the proposed $48 million budget for the 2023-24 school year, which carries one of the lowest tax-levy increases — 1.88 percent — among all of Long Island’s 124 school districts. Voters also approved the creation of a new type of reserve account dedicated to security and technology upgrades, to be funded using year-end surplus money up to $10 million over 10 years. The budget passed 1,619 to 570, while the reserve proposition was approved 1,559 votes to 622.

The Sag Harbor Historical Museum was a big winner on Tuesday with a 1,684-to-504 approval of a ballot measure authorizing a brand-new tax levy of $75,000 to support its operations and programs for the first time. Its nearly 79-percent voter approval rate was the largest margin of victory among the district’s successful propositions. The annual tax impact is expected to be about $6.48, but those involved have said the positive effect on the community is expected to be even greater in ways that numbers can’t quantify.

“This is a yes for the history of Sag Harbor,” said Bethany Deyermond, a trustee of the museum. “We’re very grateful, and we appreciate everyone coming out and voting for Proposition 4.”

In the school board race, which was uncontested, Ms. Kruel, with 1,588 votes, and Alex Kriegsman, with 1,523, were re-elected to three-year terms. They will be joined by a newcomer, Daniel Marsili, who received 1,564 votes.



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