Watkins selects developer for middle school
WATKINS GLEN—The Watkins Glen school board approved a letter of intent, Monday, July 1, for SEPP (Serving the Elderly Through Project Planning) Inc. to purchase the middle school for $550,000 and turn it into independent senior housing units.
Board President Mike Myers said the agreement is dependent on SEPP securing funding, creating at least 48 affordable housing units, and maintaining the day-to-day costs of the building once the district has closed the middle school. Prior to approval, SEPP Executive Director Anthony Fiala described his group’s proposal. SEPP is located out of Binghamton.
Fiala said the agency operates and maintains nine buildings in Broome County, plus one in Dryden. He added Watkins would be the fourth school building they have converted into apartments since 2000. He said the units would be meant for seniors, age 55 and older.
Fiala said their plan is to apply for funding through the Department of Housing and Urban Development in November 2013. However, SEPP wouldn’t be notified about receiving the funds until March of 2014. Fiala added construction could be fully completed 20 months later.
He said after reviewing the building’s existing space, SEPP could turn the middle school into 41 bedroom apartments. Fiala added there is plenty of space on the lot to add up to some 20 more rooms. He explained this keeps the auditorium and gymnasium intact. Fiala said “it would be a shame to dismantle (the auditorium).” Instead, both spaces could be used by the community.
Superintendent Tom Phillips said the district, with Schuyler County Partnership for Economic Development (SCOPED) and Schulyer County, reviewed four developer proposals. Phillips added he, board member Kelly McCarthy, SCOPED Executive Director Kelsey Jones and Schuyler Administrator Tim O’Hearn toured four different SEPP operated housing projects. Phillips said selecting SEPP was unanimous.
In other business:
• The Watkins board approved an agreement with Odessa-Montour to take over transportation services for both districts. Phillips said the Odessa board is scheduled to make the official approval at their next board meeting, Thursday, July 11.
• Watkins Glen Faculty Association President Kate Bartholomew and resident Clarissa Hong spoke out against the creation of an additional administrative position. Phillips previously explained this role will hopefully be filled by someone to eventually take over as high school principal. Bartholomew started by saying she regrets if any disagreement between the faculty association and the board is seen as “divisive.” She explained she hopes there can be more dialogue about why the position is needed, or why it may not be needed. Myers replied, “I couldn’t agree more.” Hong questioned why the position was needed when student and teacher numbers have been going down. She said she agrees with filling the high school principal role when Dave Warren retires, but not before. Phillips explained the new administrator is needed in part because of the increasing state requirements placed on teachers and staff.
• The board approved the regular annual appointments and designations during the reorganization portion of the meeting.
The next school board meeting is Monday, Aug. 5. It is expected to begin at 6:30 p.m. following an executive session.