Haldane Fields Project Wins Voter Approval

Construction could begin as early as June 2013

By Michael Turton

Voters in the Haldane Central School District said “yes” by a substantial margin on Tuesday, Nov. 13, giving the green light to a $2 million project that will undertake a major upgrade to the main sports field on Haldane’s campus as well improvements to locker rooms and the school auditorium. Haldane School Board President Michael Junjulas read the final vote tally shortly after the polls closed at 9 p.m.: 553 “yes” votes to 267 “no” votes.

Haldane School Board president Michael Junjulas (standing) reads the vote result: 553 “Yes” to 267 “No.” Photo by M. Turton

There were applause, handshakes and hugs all around as board members, staff and residents in attendance celebrated the result of the referendum. “I’m a nervous wreck; I’m ecstatic,” Junjulas said. “I’m glad there was a good turnout. A lot of people voted. It was almost like a budget vote.”

“This one tasted sweeter than any of them (past referenda), I think because of the last-minute shenanigans,” Superintendent of Schools Mark Villanti said after hearing the result. In informal discussions prior to learning the outcome of the vote, trustees expressed their displeasure with comments made recently on local blogs, Facebook and websites, some of which questioned the time frame, integrity and openness of the process that led to the referendum.

“The district began its efforts towards this project over 18 months ago,” Villanti said as part of a written statement. “The project has been a mainstay of Board of Education meetings since that time.” He also said, “We have provided enough material on our website and during public discourse that I believe the public has been able to make an informed decision. Is there anything more we could have done? Possibly. But, communication is a two-way street.”

“It’s been 10 years since we first began discussing this project,” Junjulas said. “And it’s been discussed at every single meeting since I became president.” The comments from Junjulas and Villanti were fueled in part by a post on Philipstown.info by the Citizens of Philipstown organization that said in part, “We feel that this vote is coming at us fast and furious. We do not believe that there has been enough time to digest all of the material that has been disseminated.”

Prior to the vote result, Villanti also said, “I think this is the first time that social media played a role in a vote.” Former School Board President Joe Curto, who was in the audience, commented, “It’s a great way to spread misinformation.”

Villanti said that the Building and Grounds Committee will meet with the consultant on the project in about two weeks. After that, engineering specifications will be sent to the New York State Department of Education for review. “Then it’s a waiting game,” he said. Villanti said he hopes to be able to put out bids on the work in the spring with construction beginning as early as June.

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