Greenport bond votes scheduled for Tuesday

COURTESY PHOTO | PHOTO COURTESY OF GREENPORT SCHOOL DISTRICT This deteriorated 38-year-old boiler has outlasted its useful lifetime and school officials just hope it continues to work until they can replace it.

Greenport School District taxpayers will trek to the polls Tuesday to decide the fate of two bonds totalling $8.75 million to fund repairs and improvements at the school building.

Superintendent Michael Comanda has characterized the bonds as “no fluff” and said they are “critical” to maintaining the viability of the building, which was constructed in 1932.

Proposition A calls for raising $7.485 million to replace the original roof and to upgrade insulation; install new rooftop HVAC units, replacing units that no longer work; purchase a new boiler to replace a 38-year-old unit that has outlasted its expected lifespan; and replace original windows with energy efficient insulated glass.

The bond would also pay for restoration of the school auditorium, which has sustained damage from rainwater leaks; replacement of a curtain wall system in the main gymnasium; and installation of a wall/door system with energy efficient insulated glass and new exterior doors in a connecting corridor of the building.

Also, the school’s fire alarm and emergency lighting systems would be replaced to meet new code requirements and the building would get a new clock and telephone system. The building’s original exterior wood doors would be restored.

As required when any public building undergoes major renovations, the district would also assure that the structure conforms to the Americans with Disabilities Act in its main access and access to bathrooms and other parts of the building. The building already has an elevator to enable handicapped students to reach second and third floors for classes.

Proposition B calls for spending $1.27 million to install a 50 kilowatt solar system on part of the school’s roof and a 250 kilowatt wind-powered two-blade turbine that would be built on the northwestern edge of the school’s ballfield.
Greenport Board of Education members, who had originally proposed a single bond, opted in October to split it into two propositions.

“I wanted it to be the choice of the voters,” board president Tina Volinski said about the green energy initiatives. At the same time, she said, with escalating energy costs and the opportunity to reduce the district’s carbon footprint, she believed the initiative would save money and offer an important lesson to students on the value of alternative energy.
An average Greenport property owner would be assessed $197.98 per year to pay for the main bond and $31.89 per year for the green energy bond, Mr. Comanda said. The life of the bonds is 20 years and the district has no other outstanding long-term debt, he said. Greenport would qualify for state funding of 10 percent of the cost of both propositions, he said.
School administrators and board members have been aggressively marketing the bonds to taxpayers, attending meetings at Peconic Landing, the Greenport Village Board and other groups to make their arguments why the community should support the bond proposals.

Mr. Comanda has shown pictures of damage to the roof and ceiling, including a short video clip of rainwater running through an electric light fixture outside the school cafeteria.

He said that clip alone keeps him awake at night worrying about the potential danger.

Other pictures have shown measures students and teachers have had to take to funnel rainwater from leaking windows into receptacles. That has involved everything from using paper towers to funnel water from window sills while covering educational materials with plastic bags to the use of small inflatable swimming pools in the gymnasium to catch rain water.

Mr. Comanda admitted he would be devastated if the bonds fail, but said the response  has been positive when he’s told residents about the extent of damage to the building. If voters did turn thumbs down on the bonds, it would result in a delay in doing the necessary work and would ultimately cost more as both bond interest and construction costs rise over time, Mr. Comanda said. Ultimately, the work must be done sooner or later to preserve the building, he said.
He noted that the School Board in May adopted what its auditors characterized as the tightest budget they have seen in any district for the current school year and the board has pledged to keep a tight rein on spending for the following school year.

As a sign of good faith, Mr. Comanda has foregone a salary hike for himself and the School Board has agreements for salary freezes from both elementary school principal Joe Tsaveras and junior-senior high school principal Len Skuggevik.
“We felt it was the right thing to do during these tough economic times,” Mr. Skuggevik said.

Polls open Tuesday between 2 and 8 p.m. in the school gymnasium.

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