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Peekskill Council, School Board Seek Common Ground

PEEKSKILL, N.Y. --  Members of the city's common council and school district's board of education met Thursday night to look for ways to save money and share resources.

Superintendent of Schools James Willis said that, in order to show that both sides are saving money, the costs of each shared service must be determined. He gave the example of athletic fields for city youth programs that would also be used by the schools.

"In an ideal we'd like to provide services and you provide services and then we smile and shake hands and go on our merry way, but we want to make sure we bring the proper value to these things too," he said.

Acting City Manager Brian Havranek agreed that putting costs to services was a good first step. The school district had started working on a contract with Rick Finn, the former city manager, but it wasn't completed before he left.

Mayor Mary Foster said the city wanted to increase youth sports programs in order to create feeder programs in sports like soccer, baseball, field hockey and possibly even cricket.

"If we can just figure out a way to make it attractive to the school district to work collaboratively it might help,  as opposed to your staff being hit with one-off requests," Foster said.

School Board President Joe Urbanowicz suggested investing in a turf field that would be used by both school and city athletic teams and suggested looking for grants to pay for one. However, Council member Andrew Torres said the city had already looked into such fields and they were very expensive due to new safety regulations.

Peekskill trustee Michael Simpkins pointed out that having lights on city fields like the football field in Depew Park would also allow more use, but Torres said all city parks close at sunset so policies would have to be changed.


Other subjects discussed at the meeting:

  • The boards discussed the fate of the vacant Uriah Hill Elementary School. The school is worth $4.2 million but the district spends about $90,000 maintaining the school and its athletic fields. Willis said he wants to keep the school since it could be used for school and city programs. Foster agreed, saying said it could be used for BOCES, library and youth bureau programs as well as records storage.
  • Both boards stressed the need to keep non-scheduled groups from using the Uriah Hill's fields to cut back on field damage and are working to enforce the permit rules needed to use the fields.
  • The boards discussed the possibility of sharing the city's new city-wide wireless internet service with the schools.
  • School board members said Canadian Geese are ruining the Torpey Field and Depew Park fields. The most common solutions involve trained dogs and chemicals, which are both costly.
  • The city would like to be able to use the school district's automated "robo-call" system to get urgent messages to residents quickly in an emergency.

 The two boards will hold another meeting to further discuss many of these issues as well as tax certioraris on Thursday, March 8 at 7 p.m.


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