Southold puts high school roof replacement on the May ballot

A referendum to replace the roof at Southold High School has been added to the May ballot.

Sometimes, pushing all the desks to one side of the room to avoid being drenched when the roof leaks is just part of a day in the life of Southold High School students. Sometimes it’s just part of Superintendent David Gamberg’s day to climb up to the rooftop to examine the roof’s seams and plan patching strategies with the school’s architects.

But students and district officials are hoping that by next summer, those days will be just a memory.

Southold High School’s slate roof has been keeping the rain off students since before most of their parents were born. After 75 years, the district plans to replace the slate roof, as well as several 20-year-old flat asphalt roofs, during the summer of 2013.

Before that can happen, though, they’ll need voters to approve two referendums: one to transfer money for the $2.5 million project from the school’s repair fund to its capital fund and another to authorize the work.

Mr. Gamberg was quick to point out that the school will not authorize spending any more money than it already has on hand, but will simply reallocate money already earmarked for building repairs.

“In my four years here, there’ve been times where there are barrels collecting water in the hallways,” he said. “There are classrooms where the plaster is falling and kids have to get out of the way. We’ve spent thousands of dollars on paint jobs only to have it begin to buckle from the moisture. It just doesn’t make sense. The time for Band-Aids is over.”

The Southold school board voted March 21 to hold the first referendum in conjunction with the May 15 budget vote. That would authorize the transfer of $1.5 million from the district’s repair fund to its capital fund, which already contains more than $1 million. A second vote will need to be held in mid-October to authorize spending the funds.

Architect Jim Weydig of BBS Architecture in Patchogue told the board March 21 that his firm recommends again using slate on the pitched parts of the roof. He and BBS principal Roger Smith said they can save some of the existing slate shingles for re-use by the art department if the school tells them how many they need.

“You really don’t want all of it. It’s a lot of pieces,” he said.

The flat roofs will be recoated with a two-ply SBS asphalt-impregnated felt surface. Mr. Weydig said drains will be installed and the flat roofs will be pitched slightly to keep water from standing and damaging the new roof. Mr. Weydig said water has seeped in between the seams of the flat roofs and saturated the base layer underneath, causing leaks when it rains and some minor mold issues.

During Tropical Storm Irene, he said, the flat roofs’ layers, which had been delaminating, began to break free and “bedsheet,” a term for when the wind catches roof layers and pulls them up. He said the new asphalt-impregnated felt would be more resistant to deterioration than the current flat roof, which was installed in 1994. The new flat roof would have a 20-year warranty, but, he said, would likely last quite a bit longer than that.

School board members said it would cost about $3,000 to hold the extra vote in October, but if they wait until next May to hold the second vote, there wouldn’t be enough time to obtain all necessary state approvals before beginning work in the summer.

School board president Paulette Ofrias said that if the first vote fails, the money will stay in the repair fund. If the first vote succeeds and the second fails, she said, the money will simply sit in the school’s capital reserve “and it’s of no use.”

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