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Decision No. 13,124

Appeal of RITA N. MEZZAPELLE, individually and on behalf of the Stanforth Action Committee, from action of the Board of Education of the Sewanhaka Central High School District relating to a closed school building.

Decision No. 13,124

(March 3, 1994)

Christopher Rosado, Esq., attorney for petitioner

Douglas E. Libby, Esq., attorney for respondent

SOBOL, Commissioner.--Petitioner appeals respondent's decision to winterize a closed school building. The appeal must be dismissed.

The Board of Education of the Sewanhaka Central High School District ("respondent") is the owner of a building known as the Alva T. Stanforth Junior High School ("Stanforth"). Respondent closed Stanforth after the completion of the 1984-85 school year. Since that time, the building has remained vacant.

In 1989, a proposed sale of the building was defeated by the voters. Litigation arose out of the proposed sale which continued for several years. Once resolved, respondent appointed a subcommittee of its members to study possible uses for Stanforth. Subsequently, respondent appointed another subcommittee, comprised of eight community members, to evaluate potential uses. This subcommittee, known as the Alva T. Stanforth Junior High School Subcommittee ("ATS Subcommittee"), made its report and recommendations to respondent in June 1992. Respondent is continuing to evaluate the various proposals presented and has hired a real estate consultant to assist it.

During Stanforth's vacancy, respondent has maintained heat, electricity, security, fire detection and insurance. In addition, respondent has removed furniture and lockers, as needed, for use in the district's other operating schools.

By letter dated December 14, 1992, the Nassau County Department of Health advised respondent that Stanforth's existing 3,000 gallon above-ground fuel tank was not in compliance with the County's Public Health Ordinance. In response, respondent's director of buildings and operations determined that the district had three options. First, respondent could install a 10,000 gallon tank at an approximate cost of $75,000. Second, respondent could make certain changes to the existing tank at an approximate cost of $22,000. Third, respondent could winterize the building by draining the pipes and heating system at an approximate cost of $1,500. The director of buildings and operations recommended the third option based upon the savings.

At a board of education meeting held on January 13, 1993, respondent adopted the building director's recommendation and voted to winterize Stanforth. Thereafter, the ATS Subcommittee sent a letter to respondent in which it expressed its concern over the decision to winterize Stanforth and asked respondent to rescind its decision. At a board meeting held on February 3, 1993, petitioner voiced her opposition to respondent's decision. Respondent discussed the options and the director of buildings and operations again recommended winterizing the building. A motion to reconsider was made and defeated. Accordingly, respondent proceeded to winterize Stanforth. The work was completed by 10:30 a.m. on February 12, 1993.

Petitioner commenced this appeal on February 12, 1993, after Stanforth had been winterized. On February 25, 1993, I denied a request for a stay pending a determination on the merits.

Petitioner contends that the original decision to close Stanforth was arbitrary and capricious since it was done in the face of increasing enrollment. Petitioner also contends that the decision to winterize Stanforth was arbitrary and capricious in that it was made in response to a potential expenditure of $75,000 which was allegedly not necessary. Petitioner further maintains that respondent's decision to winterize Stanforth will discourage prospective bidders. Respondent contends that the decision was within its discretion and was not arbitrary or capricious.

As a threshold matter, I find that petitioner lacks standing to maintain an appeal on behalf of the Stanforth Action Committee, an unincorporated association. An individual representative of an unincorporated association does not have standing to maintain an appeal pursuant to Education Law '310 (Appeal of Cassin, et al., 32 Ed Dept Rep 373). However, to the extent petitioner is a resident and taxpayer of the Sewanhaka Central High School District, she has standing to maintain an appeal on her own behalf (Appeal of Schechter, 28 Ed Dept Rep 118).

Initially, petitioner requested that I issue a stay to prevent respondent from winterizing the building. However, respondent had already completed the work before petitioner commenced this appeal. As a result, no meaningful relief could be granted in a stay order, even if it was warranted. The only other relief petitioner appears to request is a determination after the fact whether respondent's decisions to close and then winterize Stanforth were appropriate. This is a request for an advisory opinion, which I will not issue (Appeal of Saeger, 31 Ed Dept Rep 528, app. to reopen den'd 32 id. 200; Appeal of Children with Handicapping Conditions, 31 id. 21). Consequently, the appeal must be dismissed.

THE APPEAL IS DISMISSED.

END OF FILE