$8.4 million schoolhouse fix

09/23/2010 12:00 AM |

A workman surveys the damage on the roof of Greenport School. The roof’s replacement is part of the work that would be funded by an $8.4 million bond issue that will be put to voters on Dec. 7. See a video showing additional water damage at suffolktimes.com.

Just hours after celebrating Greenport Elementary School’s national “Blue Ribbon” honors on Sept. 15, Superintendent Michael Comanda dropped the other shoe, announcing at an informational meeting that significant repairs to the building’s infrastructure would cost $8.4 million. A referendum on a bond issue to raise the money has been scheduled for Dec. 7.

The 20-year bond would cost the average taxpayer about $190 a year or an average of 52 cents a day, Mr. Comanda said at the meeting. He noted that the district has no other indebtedness.

Two board members and a teacher were the only people in the audience at the 5:30 meeting, the first of several planned on the bond issue. But that morning, there had been a good crowd outside the school as Mr. Comanda and others celebrated the “Blue Ribbon” designation, awarded by the White House for improvements in elementary school test scores. School representatives will be going to the White House in November to receive the award along with other schools from across the country.

The next informational meeting on the bond proposal is slated for Tuesday, Oct. 5, at 6 p.m. Subsequent meetings are on Wednesday, Oct. 20, at 5:30 p.m. and again at 7 p.m., during the board’s regular monthly meeting; and Wednesday, Nov. 17, at 7 p.m.

The bond vote is slated for Dec. 7, between 2 and 8 p.m.

The money will pay for a new roof, two new boilers, rooftop heating and cooling systems, new windows and replacement of metal exterior doors. It will also pay for refurbishing the school auditorium, including repairs to damaged ceiling tiles.

The bond also will include funds for a 50,000-kilowatt solar panel system on the gym roof and a three-blade wind turbine, to be located to the north of the school’s football field, that will generate 250,000 kilowatts of power.

“Solar and wind is an attempt to put the green in Greenport,” Mr. Comanda said.

The rotted drainage system will be repaired and new telephone and fire alarm systems will be installed. All water fountains will be replaced. Bathrooms on the second and third floors will be refurbished to make them handicapped accessible.

The school building was erected in 1932 and the current roof, planned to last 20 years, is at the end of its lifespan, having been in place for 22 years, Mr. Comanda said. Boilers that were installed in 1972 have required costly repairs, but parts for them are no longer available, forcing school custodians to fabricate pieces for repairs in the past year.

Mr. Comanda showed dramatic slides of the damage to the school building, including rain pouring through the roof and ceiling tiles, drenching an electrical junction box and light fixture outside the cafeteria.

“This is what keeps me up at night,” he said. “There’s no fluff in this,” he said about the plans for the renovations.

Former board president Gary Charters pointed out that other extensive repairs to the building were made during his 15-year tenure on the board. But he said some problems arose because contractors had failed to properly connect ventilators, which resulted in frozen pipes, something the board found out about only after problems developed.

The building cost $1 million to build and construction took about one year back in 1932, Mr. Charters said. Its overall quality couldn’t be duplicated today at any price, Mr. Comanda said about the importance of making the necessary repairs to preserve the building.

Teacher’s aide MaryAnn Jaeger said after the hearing that, despite the cost of the work, there will be savings in greater efficiencies.

Mr. Comanda will be repeating his slide show and bond presentation prior to regular board meetings in October and November and will also make a presentation to the Greenport Village Board on Monday, Oct. 25. He will take his slide show and plea for support of the bond to Peconic Landing residents sometime this fall and said he’s willing to meet with any civic group that wishes to provide an opportunity to explain the need for the bond.

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