Sunday, January 17, 2016

Mark Your Calendars

In the run-up to the referendum on the capital projects being proposed by the Hudson City School District, three more "community conversations" have been scheduled to give HCSD residents the opportunity to "learn details of the project, ask questions, and provide comments." The "conversations" will take place every Wednesday from now until the referendum on February 9--January 20, January 27, and February 3--from 6 to 7 p.m. in the cafeteria at John L. Edwards Primary School, 360 State Street.

1 comment:

  1. On Friday morning, the school district sponsored a site visit to the City's badly eroded ravine, a walk which included representatives of the school district and school board, the Columbia Land Conservancy, and members of the City's Conservation Advisory Council.

    Admittedly, the area of decades' worth of erosion from the middle school runoff is not easy to access, which is why the school board hadn't noticed it earlier. Additionally, the damage is entirely on City-owned land.

    To appreciate the problem, you only need to see it. Thankfully, these parties agreed to take a look.

    But now that the SEQR review is done, short of some sort of binding commitment on the part of the school district, do we have to rely on the district's goodwill that something will be done to reverse the situation?

    There may be a diversity of opinions on the school board which weren't represented on Friday. Personally, I truly believe the individuals who showed up for Friday's walk were appalled by what they saw. I believe the Superintendent and board members when they say they want to address the problem. And yet, they cannot commit to this. Why not?

    The answer is that the school district cannot spend money on property it doesn't own.

    If the school district cannot repair its damage to City-owned property, then the City had better fix the problem itself. It's plain to see the negative impacts on Underhill Pond, which is also City-owned.

    In fact, the school district does hope to acquire City land for the project - their preferred plan requires it - but just not the eroded land. To be fair, before now there was no reason to include the City's wooded ravine in the acquisition, although it is just beyond the area the district would like to have.

    Another possibility short of the district's outright ownership of the eroded area is to set up a utility easement. Where such easements exist, a school district is permitted to spend money. But if an easement is established, would repair of the erosion be included in the immediate project budget? I heard something about seeking education grants for it someday, but that's not the same thing.

    It's important to understand that we're in a negotiation, lest the insistence that the school district make a tangible commitment to the environmental problem be mistaken for mistrust. There's no need to see things that way.

    For example, in exchange for a commitment to the repair and improvement of the school-caused erosion, mightn't the City simply give the land that's needed for the project, and also include the most damaged part of the ravine?

    The money saved by the district would off-set the cost of the much-needed erosion repairs, and everyone will be happy.