Turnout was so good for the public meeting about the proposed school generator on Dec. 10 that they had to hold it in the cafeteria, not the school library as originally planned. The school board members lined up at a table facing the audience, flanked by Superintendent Gallagher and other knowledgeable WCS staff members. Also present were the lead engineering consultant, David Whitford (a WCS alumnus), and financial consultant Charles Bastian, who answered technical questions about the financing.
Dr. Gallagher's initial statement gave a brief history of the project, going back almost a decade, when the Town Board first identified the school as a possible emergency shelter. Dr. Gallagher sketched the numerous discussions that the school board has had over the years about the need for a generator at the school, and pointed out that Westport is the "last school in the North Country" to put one in.
After Dr. Gallagher's statement, there were lots of questions from the audience, which was highly engaged in the issue. I counted 17 speakers, many of whom asked several questions. I was impressed by both the high quality of the questions and the knowledge and dedication of those who answered them, including several school board members. As always, Dr. Gallagher gave as good as he got-there were some good-spirited fireworks, which I'm all for, but everyone stayed civil and respectful, which I would venture speaks very well of our community.
The main takeaway point on the funding is that of the roughly $500,000 cost of the project, most will come from state aid, which we were assured is not subject to possible budget cuts. Westport taxpayers will pay for only $186,000, or about $12,000 a year for 15 years. This comes out to a few bucks per $100,000 worth of assessed property. The fine print on the aid is what makes it financially advantageous to bundle other smaller projects (like the tennis court) into the project.