Westmoreland capital project defeated in public vote

WESTMORELAND, N.Y.-- The Bulldogs will have to wait a little longer for a new turf field.

Posted: Feb. 8, 2018 11:19 PM

WESTMORELAND, N.Y.-- The Bulldogs will have to wait a little longer for a new turf field.

Taxpayers in Westmoreland voted to defeat the school district's capital project vote Thursday night, in a 157-317 decision.

The $4 million dollar project would have funded upgrades to the school's 1939 fire alarm system, bus garage and boilers. It also would have covered the cost of a new wheelchair elevator for a wing of the high school.

More expensive than any of those upgrades was the part of the project people objected to the most: replacing the grass football field with artificial turf and installing new lights, to the tune of $1.7 million dollars.

The field's proximity to the town's water supply prompted contamination concerns for some taxpayers, due to the chemicals associated with turf plastic and rubber.

"No one really knows the long-term effects," Deb Odell, a voter said.

"We've had a lot of residents come to us and say they're concerned, obviously for the hazards, especially the people that are in the water district," Kenneth Eisnor, Westmoreland Town Supervisor said. "You see, the aquifer that's directly underneath the field, I don't know if there's any possible way to drain off all that potential hazard that could go into the water."

Though school officials claimed the turf would reduce maintenance costs in the long term, voters felt the investment was too pricey compared to other portions of the project.

"A field would be nice, but I don't believe they needed it at this point," Gerry Schaller, a taxpayer said. "There's a lot of things that need to be fixed. I think they would have easily got a 'yes' if they would have separated them out."

Other voters agreed the New York State Department of Education's packaging the fixes into one project ultimately soured the vote.

"I don't like it that way," said taxpayer Glenn Dykstra. "We need the maintenance, we need the boilers,  we need that stuff, but some things we don't need, and it should have been done separate."

"Everybody wants and needs those things, but no one wants the turf or the lights," Odell said.

School officials can resubmit an amended version of the project to the Department of Education for funding in the future. 

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