Board Bandies Billboards by the Scoreboard

    A few outside, alternative revenue streams were discussed, with some opposition, at the Tuesday night meeting of the East Hampton School Board: selling advertising banners to be displayed at youth football games, and permitting the use of the high school’s parking lot to accommodate cars belonging to attendees of the MTK: Music To Know festival, which is to be staged at the East Hampton Airport in August.
    Gary Stanis, a coach for the Police Athletic League’s East Hampton youth football team, held up a mock-up two-sided plastic banner so the board could see.
    “They cost us $100 to make up,” he said. The plan would be to get local businesses to become sponsors, paying $750 for the banner; they would be on display on the football field for the fall season only. The soft plastic banners are easy to take down and re-use, Mr. Stanis said.
    Mr. Stanis estimated that there would be room for approximately 40 banners on the East Hampton High School football field, taking into account breaks in the fence surrounding it (and leaving the sides facing the school open). The money raised, he said, would be split 50-50 between the league and the school district.
    “This goes straight to the kids,” he said in a follow-up interview on Wednesday. “It’s not funding anybody’s trip to Puerto Rico or anything. It’s an alternative to going to the taxpayer, who has had it up to here by now. And it offers the merchants something for their dollar.”
    However, Stephen Talmage, a board member, expressed deep concern over potential advertising on the field. “These are private companies advertising on public property,” he said. “These are billboards, which are illegal in the town. I think we’re crossing a line here.”
    “We have to be more creative,” responded Alison Anderson, another board member. “Times are hard right now, and I thank Gary for his initiative.”
    Mr. Talmage held his stance with a smile. “It’s not that I have anything against youth football,” he said. “It’s not part of our job as a board of education to sell billboards on public property.”
    “It’s a fund-raiser,” said John Ryan Sr., a board member, who held a school yearbook up in the air. “This is a fund-raiser too.”
    “I’m going to vote no,” said Mr. Talmage.
    Lauren Dempsey, another board member, also expressed doubt, saying the banners would open the door to other teams wanting the same opportunity.
    “The baseball team is already interested for the spring,” said Joe Vas, the district’s athletic director.
    “That’s what I’m afraid of,” said Mrs. Dempsey.
    “It’s two different seasons,” offered Patricia Stanis, a parent of a high school student and Mr. Stanis’s wife, from the audience.
    Laura Anker Grossman, a board member, pointed out that the school already engages in advertising sales on a smaller scale with its beverage and vending machines: Companies are allowed to put their products in the school and split the money with the district.
    “This is more community oriented,” said Mr. Stanis. “No Coca-Cola, just local businesses.”
    But which businesses might advertise gave the board pause, as well.
    “We’re not going to accept an ad that says, ‘Happy hour at 4!’ ” Mr. Stanis said.
    Although Mr. Talmage voted no, the board approved the measure, but with a codicil: Mr. Vas and Mr. Stanis were charged with setting  guidelines for the ads in the next two weeks.
    Music To Know, the two-day concert coming to the East Hampton Airport on Aug. 13 and 14, had made a presentation to the school board several months ago, requesting use of the high school parking lot and offering money in exchange. The donation offer has now been solidified as “a minimum of $10,000 to Project MOST and a minimum of $10,000 to the district” for the use of the parking privilege, according to MTK.
    Dr. Anker Grossman wanted clarification from the school’s superintendent, Raymond Gualtieri, on whether this would affect the sum that Project MOST is slated to receive from East Hampton Town. “Project MOST has a $140,000 shortfall since the state got rid of advanced grants,” she said. She hoped funds from MTK wouldn’t sway East Hampton Town to give Project MOST less.
    Mrs. Anderson also wanted Dr. Gualtieri to clarify how much money could potentially be brought in, if $20,000 was only a minimum.
    “They’re saying it’s $20,000 even if we only have three cars here,” she said. “What if we have a full parking lot?”
    A discussion about having high school students involved, either in the parking lot or in a boardroom, using the parking lot as a business model, was quickly quashed by Patricia Hope, an incoming board member.
    “This is a concert that has a lot of young people excited, and that’s great,” said Ms. Hope. “But there’s going to be drinking and drugs and who knows. There can’t be any kids involved. No kids,” she said again, emphatically, to murmurs of agreement from both the crowd and the board.
    Dr. Gualtieri was directed to investigate these further details and report back to the board in two weeks.
    Alison Anderson asked Eric Woellhof, the district’s director of facilities, about a Long Island Power Authority initiative rewarding energy efficiency that could net the recently renovated school between $500,000 and $1 million in energy rebates.
    “That’s if it had been done on time,” Ms. Anderson said, referring to the application for the rebates. “Is the architect responsible, since they didn’t file it on time? I don’t think the taxpayer should foot the bill.”
    “What has gone into this building is above anything they have seen,” answered Mr. Woellhof. “We’ve been cited as an example. We should be their poster child,” he said of the energy-saving and sustainability practices that the school district is engaged in. “We will know what the difference is when we speak to LIPA.”
    “But is it in the contract with the architect to file for these?” queried Mrs. Anderson.
    “These rebates were not available when the project started six years ago,” said Mr. Woellhof, who said he would look into the matter further.