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Petition may force a Curtiss sale vote

HAMMONDSPORT—The decision by the Hammondsport school board to sell the Curtiss school to the town of Urbana is meeting resistance from some local residents.
The school approved the sale to the town of Urbana for $300,000, in a three to two vote last month. However, opponents of the sale have started a petition drive within the Hammondsport school district which could force the planned Urbana purchase to a referendum vote. Residents need 450 signatures, or 10 percent of Hammondsport school district residents.
“Several of us are doing (the petition),” said Urbana resident Erwin Robinson.  He explained they have until Feb. 18 adding, “everybody felt (the Curtiss school) should go back on the tax roll.”
Dick Hamilton, another resident, said they have already gathered at least 200 signatures.
“The number one reason is to get the property back on the tax roll,” said Hamilton.  “We need additional properties on the tax roll to contribute to the tax base.”
Urbana Assessor David Oliver explained if a private party purchased the building at $300,000, the property taxes annually would equal $7,152.  This is using the latest school and municipality rates from Steuben County Real Property Services.
Carmen and Dale Kramer also offered $300,000 for the school.  Carmen Kramer said they wanted to use the space for expansions to their Hammondsport archival box company.
“When you look at the numbers, I think the numbers can be beneficial to Urbana once all the necessary moves take place,” said Urbana board member Paul Martuscello.
In response to the residents’ concerns Martuscello said the projected savings from moving the town of Urbana and the Hammondsport village offices into the school and possibly renting out the extra space would cover the sale and any management needed.  He said a Curtiss Planning Committee is currently meeting to decide what to do with the 24,230 square foot building.
If Urbana moved into the school, the offices would be leaving a town hall that was just completed in December of 2007.  Martuscello said the current Urbana building cost $1,154,000 to build. He said the property was assessed at $659,000 and even if it sold for $500,000 it would cover the Curtiss school purchase.
He said the village office is currently located at Depot Park. He explained Urbana owns the building and Hammondsport stays there rent free except paying $1,200 for the police office.  Martuscello said he did not know if the village would be rent free in the Curtiss school.
Besides government offices, the committee members suggested using the school for satellite classrooms from area institutions, local access to multi-use rooms, and commercial space for rent.  However, Martuscello said the town does not currently have anyone on staff to manage the school for these uses. He said the town could hire someone, use shared services, or get a subcontractor to fill the role.
Martuscello said the funds available for the purchase are spread throughout different reserve funds in the budget.  He said Urbana has some $2 million in excess funds on reserve.  He added the tax rate has gone down in the last five years and this purchase would cause no increase in taxes.
Martuscello said residents can make suggestions for use of the Curtiss school by sending e-mails to or by delivering them to the town hall.

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