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Safety Concerns Prominent in Revised Capital Project

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By Ashlee Oakley

On Sept. 20, 2016, the Board of Education of Springville-Griffith Institute CSD met at 7 p.m. in the Springville-GI high school library media center. BOE President, Allison Duwe, called the special public information meeting to discuss the revised Capital Project referendum to order, and requested that the board and attendees stand for the Pledge of Allegiance. Other present board members were Jennifer Sullivan (Board Vice President), Elizabeth Casey, Michael Connors, and Student Representative Isobel Hooker, a senior at Springville-GI high school. Superintendent Kimberly Moritz, District Business Administrator Maureen Lee, and District Clerk Kathy Tucker were also present.

Special guest collaborators on the revised Capital Project were also in attendance: District Director of Buildings and Grounds Larry Strauss, along with Scott Jones and Jeff Nunn from architectural firm Gordon W. Jones Associates, A.I.A. (American Institute of Architects) of Williamsville, as well as Nick Humphrey and John Ticco, representing Campus Construction Management Group, also of Williamsville. Moritz also offered Lee’s expertise as the district’s business manager to help answer any questions specific to the district’s finances.

In December 2015, the proposed Capital Project was defeated 81 percent to 19 percent. Moritz mentioned with candor that this would not have been preferred as one of her first substantial tasks; however, after looking at the project, and recognizing urgent needs within the district— additionally noting how long it takes to get state education aid approval— she feels strongly that we, as a community, cannot afford to wait. Moritz affirms, “We have worked really hard to make this project much more affordable.” Looking at exit poll information, representatives were asked from every town in the district to work on a Facilities Committee. Moritz imparts, “When people had concerns and told us things, we went back to the drawing board, and reduced the cost. We took out items that taxpayers have said loud and clear: ‘We cannot support that.’” The district is required by the state to do a building conditions survey every five years. Any code-related items must be considered. They were able to move quickly with this project, because the building conditions survey had already largely been conducted before last December’s vote.

Improvements to all buildings will include pavement reconstruction and sidewalk replacement. Moritz states, “[The condition of the pavement and sidewalks] is deplorable,” not just an embarrassment, but also a very real safety hazard. There is too much cost to taxpayers to try to handle this in regular budgets, the superintendent explains, and so it has been added to the Capital Project. In addition, in all or most of the buildings, the roofs need full or partial replacement, overhead electrical lines will also be replaced, asbestos abatement will be implemented, handicap accessibility will be improved, and more improvements will be applied.

At the high school, the project cost is estimated to be $8.9 million. Up for consideration is that the old track should be replaced; most beneficially with an 8-lane track (preferred to the old 6-lane track, so that Springville may host dual meets with other schools, or potential county competitions). Refinishing the high school gym floor is also on the work agenda (as opposed to the much-debated new gymnasium, suggested in December’s vote). Other improvements are necessary, such as the obsolete overhead stage rigging and the basement sports locker room, both needing to be brought up to code. Moritz jokes a bit about the high school press box, but is also adamant that it needs replacement.  The greenhouse is also a structure from the 1950’s, and will need full renovations.

The middle school’s projected cost is $9.9 million. At first, it was thought that the HVAC (heating, ventilating, and air conditioning) units on the roof at the middle school could be retrofitted, but it has been decided that the roof will need to be fully replaced from gas-fired to a more efficient hot-water rooftop. The lockers will also be renovated in the hallways to be larger for students, and the carpeting, which was laid new in 1998, will be replaced, much to the benefit of students and staff with allergies.

Springville Elementary School’s (SES) cost is projected to be $6.9 million. The wooden floors on the stage and in the gym will both be refinished, as will the vinyl flooring. The roof will be partially restored, also having been replaced in 1998, and new energy-efficient classroom ventilators will be added. Moritz warns, “This roof replacement is critical— there was a failure of the material on this roof— we brought roofing experts in, and architects are looking at it; we are monitoring it very closely.” Duwe adds that they sought emergency funding for some of the construction work needed on the roof at SES after the last Capital Project was voted down, and have received some assistance for the roof at SES, but the building needs a more permanent fix.

As for Colden Elementary School, projected to cost $1.6 million, Moritz recognizes everyone seems to have an “opinion” on the future of the building, but these issues will not be resolved immediately, and all of our district’s children deserve a school that strives for excellence. The district recommends improvements in the kitchen of the cafeteria, replacement of carpet with vinyl flooring, and a new fire alarm system.

The district office does not benefit from state aid, as no students are in attendance there. Improvements are projected to cost $398,700; with minimal work on their roof, and to upgrade their bathrooms for handicapped access.

The Capital Project’s referendum at the present time is projected at $27,795,000, as opposed to December’s referendum projection of $38,722,000. Moritz spoke of not just reducing the amount of money needed to complete these substantial projects, but also accruing capitalized interest, which is a new addition to the plan that was presented in December. “We are planning ahead for that— we are making sure we do our due diligence to take care of our finances, and have a minimal amount of impact on our taxpayers,” she explains.

Interested parties may listen to the full meeting on the district website to hear how much of the project is covered by state aid, the timeline for the project if passed, listen to local community members’ statements and concerns, find out how this will affect your taxes, and more; as well as view any items or documents associated with this meeting. The Capital Project Referendum vote is on Sept. 27, from 12-8 p.m., and the next BOE regular business meeting will be held Oct. 11, 2016, at 7 p.m.

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