I feel obligated to share a very bizarre situation that took place at the last Town of North Hempstead Board meeting on June 29. Councilman Dwyer offered a resolution which the board voted on and approved, the implementation of a summer recreational program for the East Williston School District.
What makes this unusual is the fact that the East Williston School District is on austerity. Because the recreational/camp program is not a contingent item, the school district approached the town, as Councilman Dwyer told us, to implement the program. The town will act as the vehicle to handle the money and the counselors for the program. This means collecting the checks payable to the Town of North Hempstead whereby the town would hire the counselors as Park employees. East Williston School buses would transport the children to their school for the program. According to the board, the counselors would be covered under the Town of North Hempstead's Liability insurance at no additional cost to the taxpayers. I don't know how this is possible.
What I find very troubling and alarming to say the least, is that the town board did not have this on their formal agenda where the public could have seen this prior to the meeting; rather this was an "add on." Since the time the East Williston budget was defeated, what took the school district so long to act on this? I voiced my concerns with the town's involvement with another municipality and the manner in which the town was handling this matter. I feel very strongly that the town should not be involved in this type of situation. School districts are unique. Why would the town board enter an agreement such as this is beyond my wildest imagination? Austerity means that non-contingent appropriations cannot be made. It's taking away valuable time and energy from the already busy, understaffed Parks Department. This is an extremely difficult time for our Parks Department because of the many activities and maintenance performed at all of our facilities. With all this, they still manage to do a magnificent job!
Some of my concerns are ... since the checks will be made payable to and funneled through the Town of Hempstead; will the town be responsible for the children and/or counselors in the event of injury; bus accidents, including the bus driver; the program itself; any forms of negligence; can the school allow its buses to transport children to their school; have custodians keep school open for bathroom accessibility? If this is common practice on a contingent budget, why haven't other school districts gotten on board? Is this what the town should be doing? I have my own thoughts and I reserve comment.
As Councilman Dwyer said, "I was part of this program when I was a child" and "the program is scheduled to start July 6." The board agonized over this because they didn't want to deprive the children of this program. I can fully understand this. However, its primary responsibility is to all taxpayers from the entire town and to make certain that the town is held harmless at all costs.
I urge fellow taxpayers to attend some of the town board meetings. You will find them very interesting, informative and sometimes bizarre. You get to see firsthand your elected representatives acting in your best interest!