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Port Jefferson

Redeems last season’s one-hole playoff loss for runner-up status

Port Jefferson's Shane DeVincenzo bested his last season runner-up record by placing first in the Suffolk County championship Nov. 4. Photo from Port Jefferson athletics

By Jim Ferchland

For Shane DeVincezo, the mental game of golf has always been his focus. The Port Jefferson junior came into the Nov. 3 Suffolk County championship hoping to place in the Top 9, as is his goal every season, and after finishing with a 69, 2-under par, on the first day of the tournament Nov. 2, he knew he was in a good place to keep pushing toward his target position.

“I thought, if I try to go out there and win, the Top 9 will just automatically happen,” he said. “If I try to go for Top 9 and just worry about that and not push for the lead, I think I’ve got a good chance. I thought, with the position I’m in right now, there’s no doubt I can make states.”

With his first place Suffolk County finish, Port Jefferson golfer Shane DeVincenzo qualified to compete in the state tournament. Photo by Jim Ferchland

DeVincenzo followed up his day one performance with an even-par 71 Friday to capture the county title with a 36-hole total of 140, good for 2-under-par at Manorville’s Rock Hill Golf and Country Club.

The Port Jefferson golfer avenged his second-place finish from last year’s tournament in capturing the top spot. In 2016 he lost to East Hampton’s Turner Foster on a one-hole playoff. Foster finished tied for second in Suffolk Nov. 3.

Port Jefferson head coach Chuck Ruoff said he is proud of what his athlete has accomplished.

“He wasn’t going to let last year define him,” Ruoff said. “I know that in his heart last year gave him a lot of motivation. For two days he just went out and played his best.”

DeVincenzo overcame a rocky front nine in the first round by his standards, shooting one over to start his tournament. He rallied after that and finished three under on the back nine for the best score of the day.

“I felt I did really good,” DeVincenzo said on his performance on that back nine. “I wouldn’t say it was really a bad front nine — the front nine is a lot harder here and you just gotta get through it. On the back nine, my putter got rolling and I made a lot of good putts which saved me. Three under par is pretty good.”

He said there was something familiar about the Manorville course that he thought gave him an advantage.

“These greens are kind of like Port Jeff,” DeVincenzo said. “They’re just a little more sloped, but distance-wise and yardage-wise, they’re practically the same. Playing at Port Jeff definitely helps playing at Rock Hill.”

Port Jefferson junior Shane DeVincenzo swings away during the first of the two-day Suffolk County championship tournament. Photo by Jim Ferchland

Ruoff has been by DeVincenzo’s side since he starting golding in eighth grade, and said he’s in awe of the 16-year-old’s abilities.

“It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen,” Ruoff said of DeVincenzo’s talent. “He picked up the game somewhat late for someone who’s got to this ability level. Just between how hard he works and the instruction he’s given, it’s just really hard to explain. Year to year he’s made huge jumps in his game.”

Although DeVincenzo also trains at Port Jefferson Country Club under head professional Bill Mackedon, he said he looks at Ruoff like his best friend, adding that his coach makes the game a lot easier.

“We bond very well — I really like him as a coach,” he said. “Ever since I started in eighth grade, he’s been there as a supporter. Even when I’m struggling he’s there to help me. I have him to back me up and he helps me boost up my confidence.”

DeVincenzo golfed in a foursome Nov. 3 along with Pierson’s Henry Brooks, Eastport-South Manor’s Andrea Ternavasio and Sayville’s Sean Haselton. DeVincenzo has played with his Sayville opponent before.

“Me and Shane have been playing together for a long time,” Haselton said. “He got hot with the putter today and that’s what did it for him. I feel we feed off each other — he makes a good putt, then I make a good putt. We both played really solid. It’s fun to play with people playing well.”

Haselton finished the first day with a 73, one over par, and ended day two tied for second with

Foster and Habrorfields’ Pat Healy. In the team competition, he helped Sayville win its first county title since 2013 with an 813, ahead of Harborfields (826) and Smithtown West (831).

Port Jefferson’s Shane DeVincenzo eyes his target. Photo by Jim Ferchland

DeVincenzo, the second-place trio, Huntington’s Tyler Gerbavsits (148), Sayville’s Brendan Smith (152) and Smithtown West’s John Pawlowski (153) all qualified to compete in the state tournament, along with Connetquot’s Kyle Zere and Huntington’s Matt Giamo, who finished tied for eighth at 154. They earned the final two spots by besting Harborfields’ Andre Chi in a one-hole playoff.

Pierson’s Brooks also said he enjoyed playing alongside top competitors, saying he was fascinated seeing DeVincenzo play for the first time.

“He played great today,” Brooks said of DeVincenzo. “He was hitting every drive straight — drilling long putts. He was really dialed in.”

Even before DeVincenzo’s performance at Rock Hill, Ruoff said his athlete is the greatest player he’s ever coached.

“Without a doubt in my mind he is,” Ruoff said. “There have been some great players that we’ve had the privilege of seeing at Ward Melville, who is our closest competitor, through the years. As far as Port Jeff goes, he’s been the best player I’ve been around by far.”

Ruoff said he sees DeVincenzo finishing Top 5 in the state.

“I feel that anything can happen on a given day in a round of golf, but he’s certainly right at the top,” Ruoff said of DeVincenzo. “Every year he has slightly exceeded his high expectations, and I have high expectations for him. He just blessed with a lot of talent.”

According to medium Lisa McGarrity, Port Jefferson is a hotbed for paranormal activity. Image by TBR News Media

Along East Main Street in Port Jefferson, tucked between a plumbing company and a parking lot, sits a tiny, two-story shop where Lisa McGarrity communicates with the deceased.

A new age store stocked with spell and magic books, a variety of incense and herbs, and a private space for tarot card readings, Envision Crystal has provided a spiritual avenue for residents from Port Jeff Village and beyond since 1987 as both a place for healing and closure, as well as exploration of macabre curiosities. McGarrity, a psychic medium who first discovered her necromantical gift as a child when she witnessed spirits roaming around her house, is the shop’s third owner and said there’s a reason why there’s no shortage of customers coming to her for advice on how to handle and interact with members of the afterlife.

Lisa McGarrity is the owner of Envision Crystal magic shop, and works as a medium in Port Jefferson Village. Photo by Kevin Redding

“Port Jefferson is so filled with spirits,” said McGarrity, who recalled several encounters with former, deceased village residents over the years. “I feel that wonderful energy of sea captains, people who grew up and worked here, musicians, merchants. There are a lot of psychics in the village because the energy here is conducive. I think spirits want to be here because it’s home. They want to visit and hang out.”

In fact, the medium said, as the occupant of a historic home in town, she “has had friendly conversations” and sometimes shares her morning coffee with the gentleman who built her house long ago. While she used to be able to see these spectral visitors crystal clear as a child, McGarrity said now it’s more of an impression, a feeling, a sense. She described the sightings as  being “a little sharper and clearer than a mind-wandering daydream.”

Coming from a family of psychics and intuition-driven people, McGarrity, who studied psychology at Stony Brook University, said she’s never found this field all that unusual, but, growing up, thought it best to keep her interests in it hidden from people.

“When I was young, I learned to separate it and talk about regular world things with people and leave that other world alone,” she explained. “Things have changed now and we live in a world that’s much more open now. I was born with this curiosity and a desire to explore. I mean, I think what I do is super normal and something anyone can do if they want to pay attention to it. Some folks can sing. I’ve cultivated, developed and expanded what was a natural gift.”

St. James resident Andrea Giordano, a longtime customer of McGarrity’s shop, who developed a strong bond with the medium during a reading session, spoke highly of her friend’s gift.

“What she does is get people connected,” Giordano said. “It’s not about money here. It’s about spirit, love, compassion and open mindedness. It’s universal humanity at its best. If you have faith in anything beyond this world, she helps reinforce that faith. If you don’t have faith when you walk in here, you leave here with faith.”

‘I think spirits want to be [in Port Jeff] because it’s home. They want to visit and hang out.’

— Lisa McGarrity

McGarrity said, especially around this time of year, people often come into the shop on a mission to encounter ghosts in and around the area. For the budding paranormal investigators, the medium offers tips and advice — she stresses the importance of exploring in groups and with an experienced guide, equipping one’s self with protective stones and sage, which work to cleanse negative energy and drive away darker entities, and, most importantly, displaying respectful decorum.

“The same rules with any human interaction applies when interacting with spirits,” she said. “Start out nice, introduce yourself. That works well. Don’t go to a haunted location and shout out derogatory and inflammatory things.”

Only a few minutes away, on Barnum Avenue, is the site of McGarrity’s occasional spiritual seminars: an 1890s-built, gothic-style home full of “incredible, wonderful energy,” according to its owner, L.L. Cartin. During one particular seminar, a few Halloweens ago, McGarrity said she led a group of spiritually-minded participants with electronic voice phenomenon equipment through the house. The EVP, which picks up sounds caused by ghosts, went off when they stepped into the basement.

“I remember in that particular moment, I was a little scared to sleep here,” laughed Cartin, who identified herself as a spiritual person who met McGarrity as a customer. “She’s a very gentle soul, she’s not pushy, and she definitely has a gift. She’s one to be admired and her delivery is very gentle so you can receive her information the right way. I love Lisa and I think she’s an asset to the community.”

Indulging in a delicious, fresh specialty doughnut can be done guilt free in Port Jefferson this month.

East Main & Main, a doughnut shop in Port Jefferson Village that opened in June and is named for the intersection it overlooks, has embraced the spirit of national Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In October, among the shop’s made fresh in-house daily selections has been an assortment of pink-decorated themed treats meant to honor the occasion and raise money for a worthy cause.

Port Jeff annually recognizes breast cancer awareness thanks to the Fortunato Breast Health Center Services at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital, the driving force behind Paint Port Pink, a month-long community outreach effort in the village with the mission of raising awareness about breast cancer, sharing information and education and fostering solidarity in the community. Every day this month, East Main & Main owners Lisa Harris and Robert Strehle have brainstormed new pink doughnuts to offer to customers, and a portion of the sales for each of the commemorative pastries will be donated to the Fortunato center’s Fund for the Uninsured at the end of the month. The fund is comprised of money from community donations and fundraising initiatives to offer discounted or no-cost mammography screenings to qualified patients.

“Cancer in general is a cause that’s near and dear to my heart and this was something we were definitely going to jump on board with and participate in,” Harris said during a phone interview. She said she has an aunt who is a breast cancer survivor and knows many others, so the decision to participate was easy. “We just look forward to getting more and more involved in the community in any way that we can, especially for causes we believe in.”

Harris said the pink doughnuts have sold out every day so far and the customer response has been enthusiastic. Some of the flavors have included pink guava, peanut butter and jelly, pink lemonade, a “pink diva” doughnut with gold glitter and many more. None of the flavors have been or will be repeated, and Harris said it has been a little stressful coming up with new flavors, which she said they do on the fly each day, but a dedicated team of kid tasters and other customers have offered feedback and suggestions to share the creative burden.

“It’s all sorts of fun,” Harris said of the creative process.

On Oct. 4, the shop featured a strawberry pomegranate frosted doughnut, and a satisfied customer commented on a photo of the creation on East Main & Main’s Instagram account: “Yumm! The best flavor! Can’t wait for it to reappear in the spring — hopefully?”

Also featured the same day was the Pink Party, a strawberry frosted doughnut dipped in rainbow sprinkles.

“Hands down the best pink-frosted donut I’ve ever had,” another Instagram follower posted. “Thank you for that magic.”

Harris suggested the success of the October promotion has inspired the owners to seek out more month-long features aimed at raising money and awareness for worthy causes in the coming months.

The American Cancer Society reports that the chance of a woman having invasive breast cancer sometime during her life is about one in eight. Since there is still no sure way to prevent breast cancer, increased awareness, education and early detection are critical components of breast health care. The Fortunato center recommends that women apply the following the guidelines for early detection of breast cancer: first mammography by age 40 and yearly mammograms after age 40; clinical breast exams at least every three years beginning at age 20 and annually after age 40; and monthly breast self-examinations.

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By Bill Landon

Jack Collins was the king of the Royals’ homecoming court.

Port Jefferson senior Jack Collins passes the ball during the homecoming football game Oct. 21. Photo by Bill Landon

The senior quarterback completed 23 of 30 passes for a whopping 356 yards and four touchdowns to lead Port Jefferson to a dominating 42-13 win over Southampton/Pierson Oct. 21, which ensured the Royals a playoff berth.

“The kids in the locker room cannot wait for this game,” Collins said. “At Port Jeff there have been times where we’ve lost big to these teams, but it’s different. This year our team’s a lot stronger, and these guys want to prove that. I, do too.”

To do so, senior running back Thomas Mark returned the opening kickoff 82 yards for a touchdown, and senior running Joey Evangelista capped it off with a 2-point conversion, also scoring on a 13-yard touchdown run of his own for a 14-0 Royals lead with just under five minutes left in the first quarter.

“We came out here knowing what we needed to do,” Evangelista said.

Collins threw three of his four touchdowns before halftime, on passes of 28 yards, 4 yards and 40 yards. A 2-point conversion was tried following all three, but only successful on the second, with senior running back Hunter Ginas running it in after Mark’s touchdown.

“It’s a great win; it’s a great feeling after coming off a tough loss last week,” Mark said, referring to Port Jefferson’s 45-8 loss at Elwood-John Glenn “During practice week all of the guys were really focused —put in a lot of work, and hard work pays off.”

Port Jefferson senior Marquis Feldman pushes to break free of a tackle during the homecoming football game Oct. 21. Photo by Bill Landon

Collins threw a 36-yard pass to Marquis Feldman for the senior wide receiver’s second touchdown of the game to open scoring in the third. Collins capped it off by throwing to Mark in the end zone for a 2-point conversion.

“It was awesome to see the fans come out, they really support us,” Collins said. “We came ready to play. It was a fun, good time.”

Feldman finished with 123 yards on eight receptions behind junior Jonathan Bachman’s nine catches for 154 yards. He said knows the importance of the Royals’ final game of the season at home against Shoreham-Wading River, especially for moving forward.

“This game’s in the past now, and we’ll get ready for the next,” Feldman said following the win. “We’ll work as hard as we can and won’t let up.”

Port Jefferson head coach Andrew Cosci said with Shoreham-Wading River being a little banged up he’s hoping it greatens his team’s chances, especially knowing the dominant history the Wildcats have over the Royals, but said not to count his team out of the Oct. 28 matchup.

“They’re a very good football team,” the coach said of his soon-to-be opponent. “We have our work cut out for us, but we have a different team this year — a team that believes they can play with the big boys.”

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The referendum will appear on ballot as a single, all-or-nothing proposition

Port Jefferson high school could look very different in the coming years if a $30M bond proposal is approved by the community. File photo by Elana Glowatz

In Port Jefferson, 2017 will seemingly have a dramatic, down-to-the-wire election day just like it did in 2016, though this year it will be held in December instead of November.

The Port Jefferson School District Board of Education voted unanimously in support of a resolution to establish Dec. 5 as the date for the much-discussed and intensely debated $30 million bond referendum that has seemingly created a two-party system within the community: the Pro-Bond Party and the Anti-Bond Party.

Despite objections from some residents at prior board of education and Port Jefferson Village Board meetings, the date for the vote was set for the first Tuesday in December. The resolution to set the date was removed from the eight other items listed in the board consensus agenda under the category of finance after a motion by board Vice President Mark Doyle, so that the resolution to set the date could be voted on as individual item.

“At this moment in time both my husband and I are strongly inclined to vote ‘no’ on this bond, even though it’s great for the kids and the buildings.”

— Renee Tidwell

Those opposed to that date cited the potential absence of a large number of “snowbirds” or Port Jeff homeowners who tend to spend winters in warmer climates, on the date of the vote. The thinking being those residents are likely the same people who no longer have children attending the district, and therefore would be less likely to support the massive spending plan.

“We’ll discuss the best way of getting the word out and try to make the availability [of absentee ballots] a little bit easier than people might otherwise imagine, although it is relatively easy,” Superintendent Paul Casciano said during the Oct. 10 board meeting, when the date was finalized.

Casciano previously stated during one of the district’s several building walk-throughs, which were scheduled to allow residents the opportunity to tour the facilities slated for upgrades as part of the bond, that the December date was more preferable than attaching the proposition as part of the budget vote in June because the board felt it was important to allow the bond to stand on its own and not be lost as an afterthought to the budget.

Others who have voiced opposition to the bond have expressed concerns with voting on the more than 20 items as an all-or-nothing proposition and urged the board to split it into at least two propositions: one for education and safety upgrades and one for upgrades relating to athletics. The board elected to keep all 23 items and $29,900,000 worth of upgrades and improvements to district facilities intact as a single proposition.

Proposal highlights

•$7.6M to construct a three-story addition at PJHS

•$2.3M to construct new music room and instrumental practice room at PJHS

•$2.2M to build addition to PJHS cafeteria and renovate kitchen space

•$1.2M to replace windows at PJHS

•$2.5M to construct two additional classrooms at elementary school

•$1.7M for locker room renovations at PJHS

•$1.6M for installation of stadium lighting at Scraggy Hill fields

•$1.4M for a new synthetic turf football field at PJHS

•$3.7M to convert tech ed building to new central administration headquarters

•$1.6M to install drainage walls at north side of middle school building

“At this moment in time both my husband and I are strongly inclined to vote ‘no’ on this bond, even though it’s great for the kids and the buildings,” district resident Renee Tidwell said during the public comment portion of the meeting. “We want to vote ‘no,’ and we’re very troubled by that.”

Tidwell pointed to the inclusion of a synthetic turf football field and stadium lights at the athletic fields on Scraggy Hill Road included with health, safety and educational components in one proposition as a reason to vote against it.

“Split the bond into two bonds; one which addresses the urgent and critical capital improvements and infrastructure upgrades, and the other bond which could address less critical initiatives,” Tidwell said, prior to the vote, which eliminated that possibility.

Deputy Superintendent Sean Leister suggested it’s possible the district might have legal ways out of the bond agreement should an extenuating circumstance arise, such as a settlement in the district’s lawsuit against the Long Island Power Authority, which could cause the district to lose substantial property tax revenue, prior to borrowing the money. Leister said previously that projects and borrowing would be unlikely to begin prior to 2019.

Based on discussions during several public meetings and conversations taking place on Port Jefferson-related Facebook pages, the community seems to be split down the middle roughly two months away from the vote. Results of a survey that was available on the district’s website are expected in the coming weeks, and Leister has also promised an imminently available property tax calculator so that residents can see about how much the proposal would cost individual households if passed. This tax hike would be unrelated to potential raises as a result of the LIPA lawsuit and/or if next year’s budget were to ask for an increase. Casciano has also promised more walk-throughs, including a virtual tour for those unable to attend in person.

Port Jefferson's Aileen Schretzmayer moves through the middle of the pack during the St. Anthony's Invitational Oct. 6 at Sunken Meadow Sate Park. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

With Port Jefferson cross country runner Aileen Schretzmayer nagged by injury and Shoreham-Wading River superstar Katherine Lee out on a college visit, both teams struggled to perform up to par during the St. Anthony’s Invitational Oct. 6.

Since Lee, who ran the Sunken Meadow State Park course in 18 minutes, 10 seconds, currently the fastest girl in Suffolk County according to her coach, was visiting Stanford University to narrow down her college choices for next fall, junior Alexandra Smith was first across the 5K finish line for the Wildcats.

Shoreham-Wading River’s Alexandra Smith powers past opponents. Photo by Bill Landon

Out of 300 runners, Smith placed 11th with a time of 20:38.50 behind first-place finisher Maggie Maier, a sophomore from Sacred Heart who finished in 19:39.

“I was first [for my team] because Katherine wasn’t here, but it was my personal best,” Smith said. “The toughest part of the course for me was the down hills, but I’m pretty good at running up.”

Lee currently sits atop the Class B leader board and is ranked No. 8 in the nation and No. 2 out of all seniors, according to Shoreham Wading-River head coach Paul Koretzki.

The coach was pleased with his team’s eighth-place overall finish, especially given the outcome for a handful of his runners.

“The first five ran their fastest times today,” he said. “The only Class B team that beat us was Kings Park, by a couple of points, and with Katherine we would’ve been right up there, maybe even moved to third.”

Port Jefferson’s Schretzmayer was first to cross the finish line for the Royals in 24:51.14 placing 161st.

“It’s not her personal best,” Port Jefferson head coach Donald Slingerland said. “She’s been injured, so we’re trying to bring her back slowly.”

Second across the line for the Royals was junior Amanda Brosnan, who covered the distance in 28:23 for 250th.

Port Jefferson’s Amanda Brosnan sprints toward the finish line. Photo by Bill Landon

Slingerland warned his girls to drink plenty of fluids during the warm day, and to slow down when they thought they needed to, especially on what Brosnan said is tough course.

“It was a really big race,” Brosnan said. “There’s a lot of people running today and people came to this race from Connecticut. Cardiac Hill — it’s like a quarter of a mile long, it’s steep and it’s dirt and it’s right in the middle of the course, [so when you get to it], you’re already pretty winded.”

Shoreham-Wading River sophomore Nicole Garcia, who clocked in at 21:55.50 for 38th, also spoke to the course’s demands.

“Cardiac Hill was definitely the hardest [part],” Garcia said. “It’s a very steep hill and you think it’s never going to end; it’s very difficult.”

Smithtown’s Catherine Farrell placed second, Gabrielle Schneider placed 6th and Emily Ginty wasn’t far behind in 12th. The trio gave the Bulls enough points to finish 4th in the team standings. Kings Park’s Bridget Roell placed 15th while the Kingsmen came in 6th overall.

In the 1.5-mile run, Ward Melville’s Briana Grant was the top-place finisher and teammate Julia Stafford crossed just inside the Top 10 with a 9th-place time to help the Patriots take first in the team standings. Kings Park’s Tanner Richter rounded out the Top 10.


                

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Sam Walker. File photo by Bill Landon

By Charles Hamma

The Pierson-Bridgehampton team could do nothing but watch the Port Jefferson Royals run away with another cross-country victory Oct. 3 at Sunken Meadow State Park, winning 48-15 to bring the Royals’ record to a perfect 5-0 on the season.

Sam Walkerfinished first for Port Jefferson out of five top-finishing Royals at Sunken Meadow State Park Oct. 3. File photo by Bill Landon

Port Jefferson dominated this 2.8-mile run from start to finish, placing five Royals in the Top 5. As runners from both the Whalers and the Monarchs huffed and puffed, the Royals zoomed by, leaving kicked-up dust and the competition behind them. Senior captain and first-place finisher Sam Walker led the way, finishing with a time of 16 minutes, 12 seconds. Port Jefferson was eager to come out and set the same convincing tone that they’ve been setting throughout this cross-country season.

“Pierson and McGann gave it their all, but we just have a great thing going right now,” Walker said after the race. “Everyone’s staying positive and we’re all working together as a team. There isn’t one person who sticks out more than the other. We’re all doing great.”

While Walker finished first, it was a photo finish, with teammates stepping across the finish line right behind him. Cooper Schoch came in second in 16:13 and Grant Samara was right behind him, finishing in 16:14.

Port Jefferson head coach Rod Cawley was especially impressed with his team’s powerful performance.

“I can’t ask for anything more as a coach than a performance like the one I saw today,” he said grinning from ear to ear. “Hopefully this momentum will carry over into this weekend when we go to Disney World.”

The Royals are leaving to go to Disney World this weekend, but they are not going there to celebrate a recent Super Bowl victory with Mickey and Minnie. Instead, they will be traveling to compete in the Disney Cross Country Classic. Now in its 21st year, the competition brings together schools of all kinds, from middle schools up to colleges, to compete on the 5K and 8K courses at Disney’s 220-acre Wide World of Sports Complex. The races will take place Oct. 6 and 7. The top three schools and individuals will earn trophies, and those who place fourth through tenth will earn medals.

“I can’t ask for anything more as a coach than a performance like the one I saw today.”

— Rod Cawley

Port Jefferson will travel home for one final regular-season meet against the Shelter Island Indians Oct. 10. It’s a matchup to which Walker is looking forward.

“I think that this will be a great test for us to finish out the regular season,” he said. “They have a really good team, we have a really good team, so it should be interesting.”

After that, the road to the state qualifiers begins, with expectations sure to be high.

But for now, the Royals will celebrate this victory, possibly with a ride on the Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster.

This version updates the length of the course and the spelling of Parker Schoch’s name.

Port Jefferson High School senior Billy Scannell states his case from a student’s perspective on a proposed $30M bond for districtwide repairs and upgrades. Photo by Alex Petroski

Those who attended a meeting at Edna Louise Spear Elementary School in the Port Jefferson school district Oct. 2 seeking clarity on how the public might be leaning regarding a $30 million bond proposal went home empty handed.

About 25 community members of the 100 or so attendees voiced their opinion on the district’s proposal, which administrators presented last month, for upgrades and improvements across the district during the meeting. If the approximately two dozen speakers are a representative sampling of the community, taxpayers seem to be split down the middle two months out from a tentative referendum vote scheduled for Dec. 5.

The proposal has seemingly polarized the community, with those in favor providing student health and safety, as well as maximizing academic and athletic opportunities as evidence to support voting in favor of permitting the district to borrow the money.

“I just thought it would be interesting to get a different perspective on it, you know, like from a kid who’s actually in high school rather than someone who is not,” high school senior Billy Scannell said. “In the high school they offer over 20 [advanced placement] courses and a vast array of clubs, with an award-winning music program … the school has a lot to offer. If you really look at it, it becomes clear why Earl L. Vandermeulen was named one of the five Blue Ribbon Schools on Long Island. With AP courses and the classrooms, it’s growing because the school just gives you so many opportunities to learn new things and explore. So you say the number of kids isn’t growing, but the opportunities are and so many kids just want to be a part of that.”

Those against, including the Port Jefferson Village mayor and board of trustees, have cited uncertainty surrounding a lawsuit, which includes the village and district, against the Long Island Power Authority, that could result in substantial losses in property tax revenue for both entities, as enough evidence to support a “no” vote. No expected resolution timetable exists regarding the lawsuit, which has been pending for several years. Others have said they’re not sure they agree with the district’s assessment that each of the 21 items on the bond wish list are at a stage of requiring immediate remedy. Others have said a district-produced enrollment study projecting the number of students in the district to remain flat over the next several years is a sign that expansion of facilities doesn’t make sense at the current time either.

“How do I authorize the community to spend $30 million before I know if the school district is secure,” said Ted Lucki, a Port Jeff resident, former school board trustee and former mayor of Belle Terre Village. “How do I vote for that? It’s irresponsible. I think timing is everything. There’s a gorilla in the room. What are we, naïve? How do we justify that? It’s inappropriate for me to vote for a bond when we’re on the firing line for much bigger issues.”

District Superintendent Paul Casciano reiterated points he’s made throughout the process of presenting the bond to the public. He said it’s difficult to know when the LIPA issue will be resolved, and in the meantime the buildings still need fixing. He also said the list has been pared down from the original $100 million incarnation from when the process began about three years ago to include only the things the district views as essential.

If passed, the $30 million project would feature a three-story addition to a wing of the high school, additional classrooms at the high school and elementary school, a turf football field at the high school, lights for the Scraggy Hill Road athletic fields, among many more improvements. The district’s total budget for the 2017-18 school year is about $43 million. If passed, the bond would cost the average taxpayer between $400 and $1,000 annually during the 15-year life of the payment plan. Deputy Superintendent Sean Leister plans to make available a property tax calculator in the coming weeks on the district website that would allow residents to see how the bond would impact their annual bill.

Casciano pledged to schedule more walk-throughs of the buildings and areas slated for upgrades prior to the vote and even left open the possibility to conduct a virtual building tour, which those unable to physically attend a walk-through could view at their own leisure. The board of education is slated to solidify the proposal and vote on establishing Dec. 5 for the referendum during its next public meeting Oct. 10. A survey will remain accessible for members of the public to weigh in on the proposal on the district website until Oct. 9.

Port Jefferson's Shane DeVincenzo. Photo by Bill Landon

By Bill Landon

Two years ago, Port Jefferson’s boys golf team handed Ward Melville a loss that broke a 88-match win streak. The Patriots returned that favor at Port Jefferson Country Club Oct. 3, winning the round by a single stroke to snap the Royals’ undefeated streak this season.

Port Jefferson junior Shane DeVincenzo, a two-time All-County and All-State golfer, came in at one over par in the first wave. Although it wasn’t his best round, shooting a 37, he was pleased with his result.

“My personal best on this course for nine holes is a 32,” DeVincenzo said. “I think it takes confidence more than anything — you go into these matches saying you’re going to win and [that] helps you believe it. If you go into it thinking you might not win, it’s going to be a lot closer.”

Ward Melville’s Palmer Van Tuyl. Photo by Bill Landon

The match was a lot closer than it was the first time the two teams met, and that didn’t surprise Port Jefferson head coach Chuck Ruoff. Either way, he was wowed by what DeVincenzo continues to do out on the course. Last time the two teams met, the junior shot a 34.

“He’s unbelievable,” Ruoff said of his Suffolk County runner-up from last season.  “For the remaining matches, if we go out and play the way we’re capable of, I think we’ll end up with the result we want.”

The Patriots may be a young team, with just one senior on the roster, but Ward Melville’s underclassmen were right behind the rest of the pack, like sophomore Palmer Van Tuyl, who shot a 41.

“I hit a bunch of good shots, but Shane DeVincenzo is a tremendous golfer,” Van Tuyl said. “He started off with a few medium-length par putts, so I was down early. And toward the middle of the round I had a couple of ups and downs for par.”

Port Jeff junior Josh Gelfond, a two-time All-League player, struggled with his ball contact. He shot 40,  edging his opponent by  two strokes, but has done better than his plus four performance on his home course.

“My best is a 34, so today I was pretty good around the greens and scrambling, but my ball striking wasn’t the best,” he said. “Normally around the greens is one of the strongest parts of my game, but I need to work on consistency with my iron play.”

Ward Melville Gavin Gerard. Photo by Bill Landon

Ward Melville head coach Bob Spira said the narrow win was especially gratifying for him after losing to the Royals earlier in the season.

“We practice chipping and putting — the short game is really important,” Spira said of his team’s many workouts at St. George’s Golf and Country Club, the Patriots’ home course. “The kids golf a lot themselves [outside of the team], and that creates a lot of depth, [despite how] very young we are.”

Ward Melville junior Alexander Korkuc had his short game working for him, but after shooting a 44 left a few strokes out on the green. He looks to improve with four games left in the regular season.

“I thought my chipping and pitching was very good today, but I left a couple of putts short,” he said. “I just misread a couple of putts. As a team we just have to practice harder, work on our drills better and stay positive.”

Ruoff attributes a large part of his team’s success — the Royals went on a 6-0 run to start the season —  to the association with Port Jefferson Country Club.

“They love being around the course; the facility provides a lot for them,” Ruoff said. “They’re able to practice and play, get instruction basically whenever they want, so it’s a very strong relationship.”

With the win, Ward Melville improves to 5-1, but Ruoff said despite the blemish, he sees big things happening for his Royals this season.

“They just want to compete,” he said. “I set them in the right direction, and they’re taking care of the rest.”

Sean Leister, deputy superintendent; Fred Koelbel, facilities and operations administrator; and architect John Grillo discuss aspects of the bond with attendees of the walk-through. Photo by Alex Petroski

They say seeing is believing, and administrators from the Port Jefferson School District are hoping that rings true for homeowners in the district.

Paul Casciano, superintendent, Sean Leister, deputy superintendent, Danielle Turner, athletic director, principals from the three schools, architect John Grillo and other administrators took interested community members on two guided tours over the past week to examine the classrooms, hallways, buildings, grounds and athletic fields slated for renovations and repairs should a $30 million bond proposal pass a vote scheduled for Dec. 5.

Several residents have expressed concerns with committing to the 15-year payment plan with the looming possibility of a substantial loss of revenue from the Long Island Power Authority, with litigation pending against the energy provider. At least one resident who attended the high school tour said the LIPA specter might impact her vote.

“I for one, as a citizen, am concerned about what [the LIPA situation] means for our taxes, and really that’s the only reason I would say ‘no’ to this,” the resident said.

Other residents raised questions about why certain aspects of the bond, for the most part referring to upgrades associated with athletics, can’t be done during regular annual budget appropriations.

“We try and do the smaller items — when I say smaller I mean around $200,000 — through the budget process,” Leister said in response. “But for a capital project you’re talking millions, and that’s much harder to add to the budget. It would cause a big spike in the tax rate.”

Casciano further explained the thinking behind presenting the bond, which administrators have been working on since 2015, to residents this year at the end of the high school tour.

“We have a responsibility to give [the residents] an opportunity to decide what they want to do given their budget, given their beliefs, and everything else,” he said. “If they’re not supportive of it, we get that, but if we don’t give them the opportunity then I wonder if we’re fulfilling our responsibility to do what we’re supposed to do.”

A tour of Edna Louise Spear Elementary School and the adjacent district offices was held Sept. 20. Around seven Port Jeff residents attended the first walk-through, according to social media posts by at least one attendee on a private Facebook group comprised of a few thousand villagers.

Following the Sept. 20 tour and public comments made by the Port Jefferson Village Board in opposition of pursuing permission to borrow the money, members both in favor and against the bond referendum have taken to the group page to publicly state their case. Perhaps as a result of the warming debate over virtual avenues, about 30 people attended the physical tour of the high school and middle school Sept. 25.

A common refrain from district administration since the topic was introduced in depth during a Sept. 12 board of education meeting is that the projects designated in the bond proposal are too urgent and too expensive to address within standard annual budget appropriations or with an unappropriated reserve fund. The district currently has about $1.5 million in unappropriated surplus, according to Leister. State law allows districts to keep up to 4 percent of its total budget in reserves to be used on unforeseen expenses.

About $5.9 million of the proposed project would go toward upgrades associated with athletics, with the largest sticker price belonging to the replacement of the grass varsity football field with a turf surface.

“We’re a small school but we run a very full athletic program,” Turner said. Overuse of the grass high school football field has resulted in the football and lacrosse teams needing to relocate for practices, on occasion, and even for some games during the last calendar year. A turf field and lights at the athletic fields on Scraggy Hill Road would alleviate crowding issues with sports practices, according to Turner.

Upgrades at the adjoining high school and middle school building would cost $13.6 million and $2.2 million, respectively. The construction of a three-story addition to the high school building would add up to six brand new classrooms at a cost exceeding $7 million.

“We want to make sure that the kids have every opportunity to expand programs, to expand course offerings and space is something that we need,” said Christine Austen, the high school principal. She added she understands the decision is ultimately up to the community.

Fixes at the elementary school would total nearly $4 million, and the adjoining district office portable building would be demolished and relocated to the grounds of the high school at a total cost of $4.3 million.   

The elementary school elements of the proposal include fresh air ventilators for 12 classrooms in the building’s 200 and 300 wings. It would also include the construction of two new classrooms to be used by the guidance department and resource room teachers, who currently are periodically educating some students in a hallway, according to Tom Meehan, elementary school principal.

“With these improvements everyone would have a home — we wouldn’t be juggling,” Meehan said.

Casciano said there is a possibility the board of education will decide to split the referendum into multiple propositions, rather than an “all or nothing” vote, though it would not be more than two propositions. If passed, the upgrades would cost a taxpayer who pays $8,000 annually in school taxes to pay an additional $396 annually.

A public meeting regarding the bond is scheduled for Oct. 2 at the elementary school in the board of education meeting room at 7 p.m.

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