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Board of Education Addresses YMCA Questions

Board president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse said the matter has never been brought to the BOE.

While the idea of a new YMCA sited on Riverhead School District property was discussed at a recent town board meeting, the board of education said Tuesday that the matter was never brought before them for review.

Laurie Downs, past president of the PTO executive council, brought the subject up during the public portion of Tuesday's BOE meeting.

Downs said Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter has announced plans for the YMCA at Enterprise Park at Calverton had been abandoned.

At a recent town board work session, Walter said, despite the fact that the project was believed to be  since a new president and CEO, Anne Brigis, took over the reins at the YMCA of Long Island, plans have changed.

"They may want to move to Riverhead school district property," Walter said, to the parcel where bus barns are currently sited.

Downs said despite reports that the YMCA would be located where the bus barns are located, she and Riverhead School Superintendent Nancy Carney had engaged in an email exchange, stating that should the concept move forward, the YMCA would not be placed where the bus barns are. 

"She told me that's not going to happen," Downs said, adding she wanted to know exactly what had transpired.

"We just had one exploratory, preliminary meeting," Carney said. Representatives of the YMCA asked if they could meet with her, Carney said.

"They wanted to know what we thought of having the YMCA on our main campus -- on school property."

Carney said according to the preliminary discussion, the YMCA would be located on School Street, at the back of the property, across the street from the cemetery and BOCES.

Carney said she told YMCA representatives that she was "very open-minded" and if the concept was one they were interested in, they could bring the proposal back before the board of education.

The proposal could mean a "reconfiguration of the entire campus," Carney said. Whether or not the BOE decides to move the bus barn, the YMCA, she said, "would fit."

But as of now, she said, the concept "is just an idea they brought to us." YMCA representatives have not yet gotten back to the district for further dialogue, she said.

Ultimately, Carney said, whether or not to green light the YMCA on school property would be a BOE decision.

BOE president Ann Cotten-DeGrasse said Carney did come to her and said if the idea merited discussion, she'd bring the matter to the board of education. 

"We have not discussed it," Cotten-DeGrasse said, adding that somehow, the news got out before the BOE was asked to consider the plan. 

Downs said, as a taxpayer, she was concerned because the town has already spent considerable money on the proposal to build the YMCA at EPCAL.

"No one on this board approached the YMCA," Cotten-DeGrasse said.

Downs said she had concerns because even without the bus barn, she believed the district did not have enough yield for its students.

"That's something we would have discussed, if we had discussed it," Cotten-DeGrasse said. "It never came to us."

Cotten-DeGrasse suggested if Downs felt strongly she should bring her concerns to the town board and ask them to reopen negotiations with the YMCA.

After the town board discussion on a possible school district location for the YMCA, Brigis confirmed that other alternatives are being considered for the new facility.

"We're exploring all our options at this point," she said.

Walter said he directed Riverhead attorney Frank Isler to stop working on the lease agreement for the YMCA property at EPCAL. "We've expended substantial sums of money already," Walter said.

Walter said Fritz Trinklein, former YMCA of Long Island strategic planning director, was "discharged. We don't know where they're going or what they're doing," he said. "We're in a holding pattern."

Councilman John Dunleavy said after ten years of work on the initiative, "We're back to zero."

Councilwoman Jodi Giglio said the board has done everything they can do to facilitate the project.

Walter said while in the past, the YMCA has said eight acres are necessary, now, be believes, YMCA representatives are stating a need for only three and a half acres.

Councilman Jim Wooten said in his opinion, a location "in the heart of Riverhead" was a more desirable location for the YMCA.

Dunleavy said the school district would still need to find a place for its buses; Walter reminded that in May the board of education recently voted to sell the development rights on 25 acres of Aquebogue land to Suffolk County for $1.325 million.

After the vote, BOE president Cotten-DeGrasse said a new committee was being formed to evaluate what to do with proceeds from the sale, Cotten-DeGrasse said; one option is to relocate the bus garage to a new site and make the current school property only an educational complex.

The thought was discussed when the district bonded last year, but in the end, the BOE held off. "Ideally, we would like to move the garage off into another location," Cotten-DeGrasse said.

For months, the "Save Main Road" group protested initial plans to site the YMCA in Aquebogue.





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