Sullivan County Democrat
Callicoon, New York
April 12, 2013 Issue
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Dan Hust | Democrat

Long Eddy resident Eric van Swol, brother of the late SW board member Noel van Swol, criticized the school board Thursday on the sale of the former Delaware Valley campus in Callicoon.

Sullivan West inks contact on DV sale

By Dan Hust
CALLICOON — January 15 — The contract for the $1.16 million sale of the former Delaware Valley school in Callicoon received Sullivan West board majority approval Thursday.
The document – signed by Board President Mary Scheutzow and now awaiting purchaser Emily Yu’s signature – sets the stage for a closing within the next two months.
Yu, an administrator of the Flushing-based Windsor School, is seeking to either relocate or open a branch of the private international high school in the 100,000-square-foot DV building, which for more than 50 years served as a public school before being closed by SW in a cost-cutting move.
Yu declined to comment when reached Friday, noting that nothing is finalized yet.
Indeed, even after signing the contract, Yu will have 30 days to conduct an inspection of the school and the 11 acres involved in the sale. During that time, she can choose to back out for any reason and take a coming five percent deposit with her.
There are several other conditions as well:
• Yu is negotiating a deal for an additional 56 neighboring acres once owned by Sullivan West but sold last year to Richard Winter. The SW deal is dependent on Yu and Winter agreeing to a sale of that adjoining acreage.
• Prior efforts to buy closed SW campuses have been complicated by financing, though Scheutzow said at Thursday’s board meeting that this is expected to be a cash sale.
• Though such a scenario is unlikely, residents themselves could force a districtwide vote. State Education Law permits a referendum if at least 10 percent of the district’s qualified voters petition SW to hold a vote on the sale.
A split vote
Not all of SW’s board agreed to the contract with Yu on Thursday, leading to a 6-2 vote.
Scheutzow, Joan Glase, Kathy Meckle, Lucas Arzilli, Rachel Brey and newly appointed board member Kevin Murphy gave their assent, but Angela Daley and Rose Joyce-Turner dissented. (Ken Cohen was absent.)
“On the Winter property, we still maintain mineral rights,” Daley noted, wondering why that wasn’t also included in the Yu contract. “It would seem to be better, to be consistent.”
Those rights will stay with SW even if Winter sells his 56 acres to Yu, possibly providing revenue to the district should gas drilling or other mineral extraction occur.
That does not include the ability of the district to erect a drill rig on the land – just to collect income from any horizontal drilling that would extract gas from underneath those 56 acres.
“I think it’s wrong it’s not in there,” Daley said of the lack of same with the Yu contract. “It could be substantial amounts of money… and we would be foolish not to reap the benefits of it.”
The majority of the board, however, was not persuaded.
“I think it’s kind of a red flag,” said Scheutzow, worried it could botch the sale.
“I can see where it would be a sticking point,” agreed Brey.
Daley also wondered about an eight-page list of property that will be part of the sale – everything from window screens to freezers to ceiling tiles to shelving to paint.
“There seems to be an awful lot of good stuff we’re selling here,” she noted.
Assistant Supt. Lorraine Poston assured Daley that “if we had need for it, it would already be in one of our [open] buildings.”
Poston said these items were not bought at a prior school auction and are not in good shape.
Besides, she added, “we don’t have room for it.”
Van Swol criticizes
Despite his death in October, the late Noel van Swol’s spirit seemed active in the room Thursday, and not just with Daley sharing the longtime board member’s position on retaining mineral rights.
“The sound you hear is Noel rolling over in his grave,” pronounced Noel’s brother Eric, now a Long Eddy resident himself.
Eric van Swol considered the entire sale to be ill-timed and undervalued.
“As Donald Trump says, you need to know when to say ‘no’ and when to walk away from a deal, and I think you’ll come to regret this decision,” he pointedly told the board.
In particular, van Swol noted that the school will be sold for less than half its appraised value.
“You are just now possibly giving away millions of dollars,” he accused.
Brey replied that the school will save on the ongoing maintenance costs at DV, and the property will be returned to the tax rolls.
Glase added that this deal is “the best we can do.”
“We had our backs against the wall,” she said. “It was kind of ‘deal or no deal’.”
Van Swol appeared unconvinced, indicating he’ll take his brother’s once-famous place as the school board’s chief critic.
“My brother was the mild one in the family,” he said. “You will see more of me in the future.”

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