PALMYRA — With one abstention, the Palmyra-Macedon Board of Education decided last week to start preparations for a revised $6.1 million “fix-it” capital project that will address some of the critical maintenance needs in the district.
The project will not require a tax hike, said district officials, and will go to voters for approval in December.
Primary in the building project is replacement of the 22-year-old high school roof, an item that will cost $5.3 million by itself. Making repairs at the transportation facility and updating fire alarm systems district-wide are the other major parts of the project.
At the September meeting, the board raised concerns about the school district administration’s plan for a $6.8 million capital project that would take care of the most immediate building issues.
The board was concerned that the abbreviated project scope was less than what the 33-member Facility Improvement Committee had recommended — thus bruising public trust in the process, and that there were too many unknowns about what buildings would be used, and for what purpose, when and if the district consolidates to a single Palmyra campus.
Last Tuesday night, Oct. 8, the administration came back with three options for the board: 1) support the original project scope as proposed in September, 2) support a revised, less expensive scope that was recommended after another meeting of the Facilities Improvement Committee, or 3) postpone everything so the district can jointly fix what needs to be done while planning for the future.
From board comments, it was obvious that members are already looking long-term.
“There are too many unknowns out there because we’re thinking about a single campus,” said Board member Don Miller. “The high school roof is a priority, but $6 million is too much if we’re going to invest in a single campus. The wish list (of what needs to be fixed) is too big; it’s too hard to pick what’s a priority.”
Board President Sharon Lang argued that improvements to the bus facility were also a priority because no matter what the district does, it’ll still be needed.
The board is struggling with the duality of the issues — fixing things that need attention now, but keeping an eye out for what may happen if consolidation is a reality — something the board won’t decide on until 2015.
Ralph Brongo, the assistant superintendent for business, said the district is following a “fairly aggressive timeline” for potential consolidation, but it would still be 2022 before everything is done and all school activities are on one campus — if that’s the board’s direction.
“That’s a long time for things to go wrong,” said board member Christine Cole. “It’s good advice not to put money into buildings we may not own” (in years to come).” But she said the board “has to do something because these buildings (the primary school in Palmyra and intermediate building in Macedon) are historic. What are we going to do with those buildings? If we’re going to sell them, they have to be in good shape.
“If we are truly opening our ears to the community and to have a collaborative spirit,” Cole said, the items recommended by the Facilities Improvement Committee had to move forward.
Board member Beth Grier-Leva asked if there were risks to waiting on the transportation facility work. Brongo and Kerry Tarolli, a project engineer with King + King Architects, said one issue is that a top coat was never applied to the asphalt surface, and if one is not put down, it will soon fail.
Board member Bill Toomey suggested “softening the financial impact” of the project by doing it piecemeal, especially the roofing.
But Superintendent Bob Ike said the district “can’t just stand still and let things deteriorate.”
Board member John Kratzert, who abstained from voting to put the proposition up for vote because he needed more information, said he would have liked to have seen the project cost pared to $3 million.
King + King Architects’ Tarolli said the high school roof was “all of the same vintage and shape,” and she agreed that portions of the roof could be done in the first year. “But that’s not to say that the following year other areas of the roof won’t start leaking. We could certainly tackle a few wings.”
“If we’re going to do the job, it shouldn’t be done piece by piece,” said Cole.
The board decided 7-0-1 to approve moving ahead with a $6.1 million project. The official board vote will occur next Tuesday, Oct. 22, with the public referendum in December.