Updated Friday afternoon, June 19: At Friday’s Board of Selectmen meeting, dozens of Byram residents left the meeting disappointed.
“Plan B,” which had become shorthand for building a new New Lebanon School on the field along William Street was voted down unanimously by the Board of Selectmen. After the architects Peter Gisolfi & Associates reviewed Plan B and answered the Selectmen’s questions about elimination of the existing “imperfect” field along William street and replacing it with a better field.
The architects said the new field would be suitable for baseball in that it would be oriented so a batter would to the north or northeast so they don’t get hit by a ball. The architects also explained that the new field would only dip partially into the ravine behind the existing school. The architects explained that costs of creating the new sports field that dips into the ravine were included in the estimates for Plan B.
“The bottom line is that if we did this correctly, we would have a functional field that is better than what you currently have. It would be usable by kids and for men’s and women’s softball,” said Michael Tribe, architect.
New Lebanon School is the only grade school out of 11 in Town that does not have its own field for PE Class.
After the architects finished their presentation and Katie DeLuca explained what the Planning & Zoning Commission would look for in a site plan — drainage, retaining walls, setbacks, etc — and Board of Education Chair Barbara O’Neill declined a chance for a last word.
The Selectmen made a motion to approve MI for Plan B.
After a long silence, Selectman John Toner said he was against Scheme B. “Unfortunately I don’t think plan B addresses the needs of the community at large. Plan B would perpetuate the divisions that have arisen in the community,” he said. “Plan B would change the dynamic of the village and not be reversed in the near future.”
“They’re right. It just makes sense,” Tesei said of those in the community who said locating a new school in the field along William Street would change the character of the neighborhood. “You’re moving a 50,000 square foot facility closer to Delavan…I can’t put my stamp on it.” Mr. Tesei said the people who picked the existing location of the school were right in the first place.
“I’m unhappy with some of the assertions made by folks on both sides … It’s raised an unfortunate tone and tenor in the community, that doesn’t serve anyone well,” Tesei continued. “Questioning people’s residence, questioning who the school serves and questioning our motives,” he said. “I am not going to vote affirmatively on B until I can see a sincere effort on the part of the Board of Education to give D a full hearing.”
“I’d like the Board of Education to bring forward scheme D,” Selectman Drew Marzullo said. He said he also had issues with traffic and construction surround Plan B.
After most of the crowd departed, the Selectmen continued along their meeting agenda, nominating Jake Allen to be part of the New Lebanon building committee. Mr. Allen, who runs Allen Construction, has been a resident of Greenwich since 1973 and graduated from Greenwich High School. He lives in Hillcrest Park and has three children who attend North Mianus School.
The board voted unanimously to approved Mr. Allen for the committee. Mr. tesei said there are eight members from the town on the committee includeing members of the BOE and ET. NMr. Tesei said the next person to be added to the committee would need to be either a Democrat or be unaffiliated.
On Tuesday, the Board of Education voted 6 to 2 to support Scheme B, to build New Lebanon School on the field some people refer to as the ball field and others call the Town Green. Voting in favor were Mr. Bernstein, Mrs. Ospina, Mrs. Appelbaum, Mrs. O’Neill, Mrs. Dayton, Mrs. Erickson. Voting against were Mr. von Braun and Mr. Sherr.
On Friday morning on his Ask the First Selectman radio show on WGCH 1490 radio, Mr. Tesei said the selectmen would listen to the architects presentation for Scheme B.
“Based on what we know, I don’t think there is support in the community for it,” Tesei said. “There is not unanimity as reported,” he added, citing the 100 or so emails the Selectmen had received. He pointed out the decision is being made for tens of thousands and using both town resources and property.
Adding that the ravine site is no longer being considered, he added that there is apprehension about building a new school on the William Street field (scheme B).
“While it provides perhaps a simpler resolution for the school district whose goal is to retain the students in the existing school while they build a new school, but I firmly believe it does not serve the community’s interest long term.” – Peter Tesei on WGCH Ask the First Selectman, Friday morning, June 19
Mr. Tesei cited concern about staging construction closer to a main artery. He added that William Street is a narrow road and Plan B would bring more pedestrian and automobile traffic forward and into the more congested area. Mr. Tesei said he had heard from residents who feel the loss of the green will alter the character of the neighborhood
“I think there’s a viable option build it right where it is,” he said. “If the decision is not to accept B, people will have to get together on a grand compromise.”
As to delaying a decision, he said the Selectmen wanted to do their due diligence. He said a decision will be one Byram would like with for decades. To rush, he said would be “foolhardy.”
As far as the safety issue of locating the school on its existing site, he said he held the children’s safety as paramount. “There is no greater champion for public safety than myself and Selectman Marzullo, who is a first responder himself,” Tesei said.
“When people throw out these idle comments about, ‘Youre jeopardizing my children,’ — Granted, they’re talking about their children so you have to discount the statement in terms of it being adversarial, because they’re talking about their children… I put a premium on public safety,” Mr. Tesei said on Friday morning. “I would think that if there is an issue with the current school that the police and emergency services would have addressed it. The schools have to be code compliant in order to be operated. They pass all the inspections to open and operate every year.”
On Friday afternoon the Board of Selectmen will vote yes or no on whether to support Municipal Improvement Status for Scheme B, building a new New Lebanon School on the field some refer to as the ball field and others as the town green.
On Thursday morning the building committee met at Town Hall and selected their leadership as follows:
Chair: Steve Walko, former State. Rep. (R-150th) former member and chairman of the Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET)
Vice Chair: Bill Drake of the Board of Estimate and Taxation (BET)
Clerk: Byram resident and architect, Patricia Kantorski
The remaining members of the committee are the Clare Kilgallen, Brian Harris, Tony Turner, Dean Goss and Peter Bernstein. Selectman Drew Marzullo will serve as ex-officio.
The next meeting has not been set as the New Lebanon Building Committee is waiting to see whether the project at Site B receives the MI approval by the Board of Selectmen.