NEW HARTFORD, NY (WUTR/WFXV/WPNY) — The New Hartford Central School District is preparing for a capital project vote in December. In that project, the district intends to build a new bus garage behind Myles Elementary, located on Clinton Road.
That’s where a new split in the proposal has come about and was voiced at New Hartford’s school board meeting — where plans for the new garage were presented — on Tuesday, October 10.
To facilitate the capital project, the school says it will have to clear out approximately six of the 18.5 acres of wooded land around the elementary school. The district has said that it intends to preserve the walking trails and as many mature trees as possible. They have also said that additional plantings will be made along Arbor Drive to enhance privacy.
The school district gave their reasoning behind the location of the new bus garage in a statement: “The existing bus garage on Graham Avenue, which serves as the primary transportation facility and athletic equipment storage space, is unable to adequately service the district’s bus fleet due to capacity limitations. Currently, the district purchases more expensive transit style buses in order to fit them into the service bays.”
Opponents say that the Myles woods have acted like a “living classroom” for students for decades and reduces flood risks in what is an already stressed water shed in New Hartford.
“The only time this was even brought up was a brief meeting in July,” Stephen Grove, an opponent of the new bus garage, told Eyewitness News. “There were no documents that are at least available to the public that we’ve seen showing that they’ve considered any other options or what those options were or why those options didn’t work. There was no involvement of the community in thinking up or coming up with options.”
According to the statement by the district, Myles Woods was picked because “to remain fiscally responsible and minimize the potential burden on taxpayers, the district wanted to select a location for the new bus garage on property they already own.” The statement also said that other alternate options were considered for the garage, however, none of them were deemed viable.
The current bus garage, which currently sits next to New Hartford High School’s baseball field, will remain in use once the old one is built, according to the district.
“There’s a lot of pavement in Greater New Hartford that’s underused shopping centers and parking lots,” Grove said. “Could we use some of those? Maybe we can’t, I don’t know. Well, we don’t know because none of that has been presented. There’s been no community involvement and not even any public records or documents available online that I can find showing that they’ve considered other, better options.”
New Hartford Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra disagrees, saying that the conversation has been ongoing for years.
“We’ve been talking about this for some time. The conversation predates my arrival, but again, it’s common,” Tangorra told Eyewitness News. “It’s common for, when folks get news, people are busy. They don’t pay attention until they find out about something that they either like or don’t like, but it’s been a really open, public conversation for years.”
The board decided at the meeting on Tuesday that it will table the project for the time being. Originally, a vote was scheduled for December 12. Along with the bus garage, the capital project also included general improvements and HVAC upgrades to all five schools in the district.