Smithtown Officials Seek Federal Grant to Improve Roads Near Commack Schools

Town proposes plan to improve roadways leading to Commack Schools, New Highway and Kings Park Road, by adding lights, fixing sidewalks.


Commack School District and Smithtown officials are working together to apply for a federal grant that could provide the money necessary to improve safety of the roads leading to local schools.

The Town of Smithtown will be applying to New York State Department of Transportation's Safe Routes to School program, which offers $23.9 million in federal funding for infrastructure improvements and public education campaigns that encourage primary and middle school children to safely walk and bike to school, according a statement on the DOT's website.

A community meeting will held 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 2 at John Mandracchia-Sawmill Intermediate School to discuss the grants. Representatives from Smithtown Traffic Safety Department and school administrators will be on hand to explain how the funds, if obtained, will be used and answer any questions.

"We are kind rushed because the grant has to be in by Oct. 5," said Debbie Virga. 

Virga, a school community relations liaison for Commack School District, said Smithtown officials reached out to her about applying for grants to improve infrastructure along New Highway, near Mandracchia Sawmill Intermediate School and Wood Park School, in addition to Kings Park Road, near Indian Hollow School.

The town's proposal is to straighten out New Highway and install rapidly flashing beacons in front of the schools,to slow drivers down. Other improvement measures will include refinishing the crosswalks to improve safety for walkers, according to Virga.

"You will never get a light near Sawmill Intermediate School," Virga warned Commack Community Association members at their Sept. 27 meeting. 

On Kings Park Road, Smithtown officials are proposal to also install a rapidly flashing beacon lights in front of Indian Hollow to warn drivers to slow down.

In addition to these roadway improvements, the town and Commack School officials will seek about $150,000 for education over the course of five years. This money will be put into programs to educate and encourage students to safely walk and bike to school.

In order to qualify for the grant, Virga has distributed surveys at the schools that may be impacted, asking residents for their opinions and feedback on roadway safety. 

Under the Safe Routes to School Program, the DOT mandates projects must be:

- within 2 miles of a primary or middle school,
- located on a municipal right-of-way,
- benefit public interest,
- address at least one of five categories: engineering (infrastructure), education, enforcement, encouragement or evaluation of program impact (non-infrastructure) efforts.

DOT has promised that 70 to 90 percent of the $23.9 million available will go towards infrastructure improvements within a two-mile radius of a primary or elementary school. This can include installation of traffic signals, crosswalks, construction or traffic mitigation measures.

The winning projects will be announced by year end, according to the DOT's website.

knee jerk October 02, 2012 at 12:47 PM
Now that we have that very important 9/11 memorial completed at the high school, Debbie can back to the unimportant stuff, like traffic safety around the schools.I bet if we don't "win" the grant from the DOT, nothing will be done, whether or not it is needed.I don't know who the bigger hypocrite is, The Town of Smithtown (who treats Commack like a bastard stepchild) or the Commack School District. Does anyone know whether a "community school liaison for the Commack School District" gets paid and how she knows "you will never get a light near Sawmill Intermediate School". Basically what is being said here by the Town of Smithtown is "if you want any safety improvements around your schools (Commack) you better get on the bandwagon for some of this free state money now, or it will never happen if we have pay for it. If we don't get the grant, this too, will fade away, and Debbie can get back to more important stuff, perhaps a photo collage of all the ex Commack Superintendents on a cruise ship living the high life on our dime.
Retired October 02, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Where have you been? The District is paying Virga and her "consulting company" well over $100,000 a year... an issue that has been raised at meetings over at least the past year...why does the District need a public relations firm? Also, isn't this issue something that the Superintendent, who we pay top $$ dollar to, should be responsible for handling...not some paid consultant?
knee jerk October 02, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Hey Retired: I'm on your side, where have I been? Workin,workin,workin to pay those school taxes, no time to complain. Now I too, am retired, like you, and have set out to right all those wrongs that have bugged me all these years.I never wanted to become "that angry old man down the street" but now I have the time for it also. As far as a school district needing a "public relations firm", most don't , but this one most certainly does.
Retired October 02, 2012 at 02:09 PM
I did not intend that as an insult. Good to hear that you now aboard the anti-District waste train!! The problem is..most people (me included) never bothered to look (or too busy working) at what was going on and assumed the District was doing the right thing..once you pay attention you see how screwed up they are and how they have wasted so much tax dollars... The District does not need a PR firm they just need better management by the Board and Superintendent... Too many people aren't paying attention and keep voting in these same nitwits over an over. again...I hope next year some changes can be made come election/budget time... I hope you keep reading the Patch also attend the Board meetings every month....next one is 10/18
ITS ALL ABOUT THE SPENDING October 02, 2012 at 02:29 PM
"In addition to these roadway improvements, the town and Commack School officials will seek about $150,000 for education over the course of five years. This money will be put into programs to educate and encourage students to safely walk and bike to school." Classic waste of money. Lets face it, 99.999999% of parents of children middle school age and younger will not let their kids out of their sight until the either step foot onto a bus or walk through the front door of the building. Does anyone really believe that "education" will make anyone more likely to let their kids walk of bike to school? Think about it the next time Commack, Smithtown or Hauppauge issues a stranger alert.
susan r October 02, 2012 at 04:16 PM
Don't hold your breath about residents waking up and smelling the corruption! Heck, if people want to throw their hard-earned money away I'll send them my address-LOL! I have been waiting and campaigning for years for residents to stop drinking the cool-aid and start demanding answers. The only way to start that is to vote no and replace the board!!!
Gigi October 02, 2012 at 06:04 PM
The Town of Smithtown could care less what happens in Commack. What really needs to happen is a clean sweep of the Town Board.
knee jerk October 02, 2012 at 06:26 PM
Yes, a classic waste of money, but hey, it's "free", something for nothing, they will tell you.Then next year they will take credit for "the safety improvements they procured at no expense to the school district". This money is coming out of our state federal or local taxes. If it were so important it should have been done years ago, not because it is "free" now. It is a "no-brainer" to put up stop signs at all approaches to a school. Smithtown probably needs ex amount of work to get the grant, and needs Commacks participation to procur this, or they wouldn't even bother with Commack.
knee jerk October 02, 2012 at 06:48 PM
No, no board meetings for me, I probably would have to be escorted out. Howe ver , "these nitwits" keep getting elected because those with children in the district schools keep voting them in, which is understandable. After their kids graduate, they move away to some "low rent"area like(Fla or the Carolinas) and leave us holding the bag.So for any given election, there are more voters with kids in school than voters who don't have kids in school , simple, "more nitwits" on the school board.
pbug56 October 02, 2012 at 07:54 PM
Just think of what we could do if James was paid what he was worth, and we didn't waste all this money on PR; the board creates enough negative PR to overcome any good done by a hired PR idiot. Hmm - a few more teachers?
Eric October 02, 2012 at 08:35 PM
Then you are definitely a candidate who should attend school board meetings. No one is there to complain, so it continues as the status quot. More people need to attend these meetings to understand what is going on. 2 hours once a month to see whats being done with your $10k yr, $900 mo., $30 a day in tax money should fit in everyone's schedule.
pbug56 October 02, 2012 at 08:46 PM
As to going to meetings, I have, the board could care less what attendees say. The real problem is that hardly anyone votes each year, even fewer if there is a revote.
knee jerk October 03, 2012 at 01:09 AM
Well, I've read every comment from the top down, and not one see's any merit in this "crumb" being thrown our way by Smithtown &The Commack School Board. You'll never vote out those "good ole boys" down at Smithtown Town Hall, but you have half a chance to vote out the school board members, one at a time ( due to overlapping terms designed to keep the power base intact). The trouble is, the programs for the kids always become the stumbling block, and gets threatened to be cut at every hint of a budget impass. Sports, after school clubs, buses etc, etc become the target, and no one really wants that. If it is true that the board could care less what attendees have to say, then perhaps no one should attend. Nothing deflates egos more than no one listening to you or showing up. Let that board talk to itself, instead of using "Roberts Rules of Order" to show their power.Start campaigning now for that next open board seat instead of waiting till just before the election.
GLENN October 03, 2012 at 01:27 AM
Knee jerk, Are you kidding me??? This community organizer makes a nice salary with a office at HUBBS and I am told that Commack now has a second as you call it liaison, don't forget the pension. I lived in Commack for 22 years, I was involved in the PTA and we did all of this work that Ms.Virga gets paid for we did it for free. Since moving 2 towns over, we have just as nice of a school diet. without so much arrogance and waste. Good luck in Commack with your inflated tax bill.
GLENN October 03, 2012 at 01:32 AM
James is set for a big, big increase in his already inflated salary this June......good luck....When he worked in Center Moriches It is my under standing that he created new positions for his family members and now his niece is deputy superintendion. How did the schools become so corrupt?
GLENN October 03, 2012 at 01:37 AM
It is not about that, the bottom line is if they repave TL ROAD and make the core thicker they are another step closer to being able to rezone that industry to heavy industrial. A survey was done that proved Town Line Road cannot handle the weight of the trucks when core samples were sent to approved labs. They want you to believe they are doing for the "children" that is really not the case, the core will be thicker....always a deeper story when it's "FREE"
GLENN October 03, 2012 at 01:40 AM
The PTA could do this for free and the high school kids should be involved as well. Commack now has 2 consultants according to it's web site....when did that happen???
knee jerk October 03, 2012 at 03:34 AM
ANNMARIE: Two towns over is not enough. Your "it is my understanding" accusations and "Townline repaving for heavy industry" rants reduce this blog to meaningless drivel. You moved away from Commack, stay away, even though you feel you must save us from ourselves. I don't think there is anything you understand that I don't. 35 years ago I was told not to buy a house in Commack because the school taxes were overboard.The school district had grown tremendously large in a short period of time. This causes borrowing for construction of schools and debt. It's kind of like that credit card that you max out without telling your husband, Annmarie.It takes time to get out from under it. Then in the 90's Commack had more schools than needed (Circle Hill, JFK etc, etc) and sold some off.Low and behold, the next round of "baby boomers" hit Commack as the first boomers sold their homes and moved away: solution- build new additions and upgrade old buildings, borrow some more money and incur more debt. The same thing happened in Smithtown and other towns but more so in Commack because it is a town formed by boomers. Boomers tend to move out after the kids finish school, kind of all at once. The shool population yo yo's, making it hard to stabilize costs.So, in summation, Annmarie,wild accusations don't help. Now if you had actual proof,(not just what your girlfriend told you) that would be another story, and we would all like to see it.
pbug56 October 03, 2012 at 04:21 AM
Odds are if you run against one of the chosen, you will get hit by a smear campaign hard and fast. Used to be run by the union boss (and apparently the then super), but it doesn't really matter; run and you will get smeared.
knee jerk October 03, 2012 at 12:45 PM
Pbug56: Who's afraid of the union bosses ( they're not real union bosses, they're school teachers)when we have AnnMarie conducting her own little smear campaign.
topnotchllc October 03, 2012 at 05:15 PM
Maybe the Commack School Board can ask Gappsi to do the work ...for free !
GLENN October 04, 2012 at 02:28 AM
knee jerk, the truth hurts, something uncovered that you didn't want out...obviously! oh, poor baby.......smear campaign ...... keep reading you should read and not post....until you learn.......stop drinking the Kool aid!
knee jerk October 04, 2012 at 02:23 PM
AnnMarie: You seem to have a problem with reading comprehension.Try reading slowly and mouth the words, it may help you understand. I am not trying to be nasty with you, but maybe it would be in your best interest to seek professional help. What would I not want uncovered, except you. You are probably an FDR/Pearl Harbor, JFK,RFK,Waco,Flight 800, 9/11 conspiracy theorist are rolled into one ( I'm sure I forgot a few). Only someone of your obvious intelligence can see through all the bull being hurled at us and must save us from it.Thank god for whistleblowers like you. Speaking of conspiracy, I have a hunch that YOU may be working for your friends on the school board, asking you to attack anyone speaking against them, reducing this blog to mindless, unintelligent ranting (and you are almost there).
BB October 09, 2012 at 03:04 AM
Filled out the survey and said NO across the board! If schools don't allow strangers onto school property so children are not stalked or abducted, why should the opportunity for them to be stalked and abducted to and from school be acceptable walking and/or biking to school! Shame on the Commack School District! Just another ploy to cut down on Bus Transportation!
ITS ALL ABOUT THE SPENDING October 09, 2012 at 01:36 PM
Exactly. I have the same opinion (see post above). Funny how when the almighty dollar comes into play, the district loses all semblance of good judgement. If you and I can rationalize this "plan" this way, it makes me wonder if the district is either not too bright, or just doesnt care about the kids when a dollar is up for grabs.
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