Westport project narrowly rejected

WESTPORT - Seven votes proved to be the difference as voters here narrowly turned down a proposal to fund construction of a new municipal building.

Five hundred twenty three of the town's 1,014 registered voters cast their ballots June 15, rejecting authorization of a $7 million bond for the project by a vote of 179-172. Two ballots were counted void.

"Now we're going to need some time to digest the vote and find out where we go from here," said Westport Supervisor Dan Connell.

The Westport Town Board had unanimously approved the bond April 13 and set June 15 as the date for the permissive referendum.

"It's frustrating," said town councilman Michael "Ike" Tyler, noting how the board chose to initiate the referendum on its own. "I can understand people don't want their taxes raised, but it's going to happen sooner or later."

Had it passed, the building would have acted as a consolidated facility for the town's Department of Public Works, the Westport Central School bus garage, the Westport Fire Department, and the town offices, each of which currently occupy separate premises dating from the 1950s or earlier.

Dave Whitford of the Plattsburgh-based architectural firm AES, lead engineer for the project, has noted in the past that all four of the older buildings, with the possible exception of the town hall, have aged beyond feasible renovation.

The 'no' vote from the referendum means all grant monies for the project are now lost, Connell said.

"There's no question these facilities need to be replaced," said Connell, "However they get replaced, whether it's as three separate facilities, the taxpayers are going to foot the entire bill."

Tyler noted a study by the town that determined the cost of three separate facilities would be upwards of $10 million, not including any new land purchases.

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