Yes Vote on Bus Site

District moves ahead on Springs-Fireplace deal

At a special meeting Tuesday evening, the East Hampton School Board solicited applause from those in attendance when it unanimously agreed to buy a site for a bus depot on Springs-Fireplace Road from East Hampton Town for $2.3 million, pending voter approval. 

The almost-three-acre property, which once was the town’s scavenger waste facility, is slated to become a vocational training facility as well as a bus depot. The board had agreed to abandon an initial plan for a depot on school property near Cedar Street after an outcry from the area’s residents and others.

J.P. Foster, the school board president, said he was hopeful the town would expedite the process and put the final signature on the deal by the beginning of September, after which there would be a 45-day waiting period to allow environmental and safety studies.

The town used the facility for the treatment of septic waste from 1983 until 2012, when it was downscaled to a simple transfer station. The State Department of Environmental Conservation had charged the town  with environmental violations over the years, and it was permanently closed in 2014.

The town had an environmental study conducted in May by VHB, a Hauppauge engineering and environmental firm, “to determine evidence of recognized environmental conditions.” Despite its conclusion (available on the school district’s website) that the property possessed no significant environmental red flags, Mr. Foster has insisted that the district conduct a deeper (Phase II) study to include a “sub-surface, geo-physical survey” to uncover the possibility of any buried waste that might be harmful.

“We want to disclose everything we can and move forward with eyes wide open,” Mr. Foster said, adding that even though VHB did not believe further study was necessary, “we want to do it anyway.”

East Hampton Town has agreed to allow the district until the end of May 2018 to put the purchase on the ballot for the necessary taxpayer vote.

“Ideally, we would like to get a vote out by November or December, but if not, it will probably be around May 15, 2018,” Mr. Foster said, adding that decreased population in winter was a reason to postpone the vote if necessary.

“The environmental results should drive the timing of the vote,” said Jacqueline Lowey, a board member, who stressed the importance of a thorough study.

In response to several letters to The Star by Springs residents decrying the potential for a bus depot on the industrial stretch of Springs-Fireplace Road and arguing that the thoroughfare was already busy, John J. Ryan Sr., a board member, said, “We want to assure Springs that we will be a good neighbor. In fact, anyone who is characterizing us as doing harm, has got it backwards.” He and other board members pointed out that with school in session between September to June, bus traffic would not add any congestion during the busy summer months.