WESTPORT - Voters in the Westport Central School district will have two major issues on a special ballot Dec. 22.
The board of education will be looking to fill a vacant seat due to the resignation of one of its members. The more controversial topic, however, may be a $500,000 capital project the board has decided to put in front of voters.
The primary goal of the project is to install a 200 kW outdoor generator at the school that would power the entire building in the event of a power outage.
"A number of people in the community indicated the school should be able to be equipped as an emergency shelter," said Westport Superintendent John Gallagher. "The schools are the center of the community, so if they can be equipped as emergency shelters, it makes a lot of sense."
Though the school is currently designated as a Red Cross shelter, its inability to function in a power outage makes it ill-equipped for a catastrophic emergency such as what the town experienced during the ice storm of 1998.
With a generator, the school would be able to provide shelter for hundreds of residents in its auditorium and gymnasium, and serve food in its cafeteria.
Gallagher noted that Westport is one of the few schools in the area that does not have its own source of emergency power.
"The fringe benefit would be that I will never have to send kids home in the middle of the day because of a power outage," Gallagher said. "That's happened a number of times."
Other plans in the package include installing electronic key-card access on the school's 29 exterior doors and remodeling the school's main entrance to ensure visitors sign in at the office. Both of these initiatives are to put the school in better compliance with federal security requirements.