After three years, steps toward an access road for emergency vehicles to Riccardi Elementary School in the hamlet of Glasco have been taken. Saugerties town government accepted a 50-by-200-foot swathe of land south of the school as a gift from propertyowner Jimmy Bruno at its August 15 town board meeting. This future access road, a concept that vocal proponent George Heidcamp has called “a no-brainer,” will provide a second access to the school.
Town officials need to negotiate the surrender of a final 300-foot strip of land from the school board, which declined back in February to take the potential roadway.
“If that [Bishop’s Gate] road ever gets blocked off and there’s a fire, that house is going to burn down,” declared Heidcamp during the meeting’s public-comment period before the board voted unanimously to accept the parcel as town property. “If someone has a heart attack, the ambulance won’t make it in time. It’s just a matter of time, something’s going to happen. Maybe not here, but close by.”
Before Heidcamp left the Saugerties school board three years ago, he initiated efforts to establish the access road to the elementary school, which is situated at the end of a dead-end road. In March 2016, the board voted unanimously to commission a SEQR study on the site to assess potential environmental impact. But Heidcamp’s last meeting on the school board was in June of that year, and the access-road proposition faded from administrative memory.
Heidcamp’s fervor was reignited after the nationally-discussed shooting at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas school in Florida. He sent an email entitled “Dangerous Situation Continues” to members of the school board, town and village officials and news outlets.
“In my research, Riccardi is the only school in the State of New York with only one access point,” said Heidcamp at last week’s board meeting.
Propertyowner Bruno, the town’s highway department and residents of Bishop’s Gate backed the idea. But the school board rejected it, citing concerns that students in Bishop’s Gate could lose busing services if a new road put them at a closer distance to their school. Board president Bob Thomann said that some of the conditions the board would have to meet to take on the free parcel were unacceptable.
Heidcamp submitted freedom of information requests for school-board bills, emails and minutes. In April, he instigated a meeting involving members of the town board, Bruno, Saugerties town attorney John Greco and highway superintendent Doug Myer. The group sought to devise a way to bypass the school district’s involvement in the project.
Because of concerns about busing and mindful of his promise to the residents of his subdivision that their access road would never become a thoroughfare, Bruno proposed that the town could keep the road gated and private, only to be used for events and emergencies.
With the access parcel within Bishop’s Gate in the town’s hands, the Riccardi part of the access strip is now needed.
“I remember back [when I was] on the school board I heard that proposal ten years ago,” said councilman Mike MacIsaac. “The school system has to accept the road. I’m glad this is moving forward after ten years.”
The property acquisition has additional benefits, according to town supervisor Fred Costello. “There are utilities that go through these parts that would help the school,” he said, such as gas lines and water mains.