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Architects Propose Facilities Projects for December Bond Referendum

images(Updated 6-15) How much of the proposed $60mm- $70 million bond will go to the Greenacres Elementary School? At the June 12 meeting of the Board of Education, Superintendent Thomas Hagerman invited newly selected architects BBS to present their findings and recommendations for district-wide upgrades and renovations, including additions to Greenacres. 

Hagerman explained where he thought the funds should go saying, "People feel like there was a promise that was made that all of this money would go to Greenacres and I'm not sure where that came from. Even with KG&D, (the former architects) this issue of life and safety was front and center at all of our board meetings and presentations ... we understand that Greenacres is the priority beyond that. But this is the one time that we have without inflating the annual budget , taxes, or other kinds of things to attend to these issues that really are "musts." We're talking about roofs and boilers; code issues. These are things that we simply cannot walk by at this moment." He continued, "While Greenacres is a major priority, it is important to look at this across the entire district" stated Hagerman, "What we are compelled to do as the school district, the stewards of both the buildings and the budgets and all of those things, is that we have to attend to this work, especially the safety and code work, at this time, along with Greenacres. It is just an absolute must."

As to why he decided to dismiss former architects KG&D, Hagerman explained that much of the concern about Greenacres came from a study that KG&D did that found that Greenacres had 25% less square footage per student than the other schools, a study which the board stated came from old building plans rather than actual measurements. When BBS took measurements of Greenacres, they did not find the situation to be nearly as critical. To those who complained that the administration instructed the architects not to pursue plans for a new building, Hagerman insisted that BBS did an independent evaluation of the hundred year-old school and found Greenacres to be "as sound as other buildings" and suitable for renovation, saying, "The district has never given any direction in terms of a renovation or a new building."

He turned over the floor to BBS who then provided details of the top priority items for each building in the district, explaining that ventilation, security systems and ADA compliance and accessibility were issues at almost all the schools. In addition, they recommended routine maintenance and repair of items such as piping, electrical systems, and roofs. In total they identified $101 million in projects including $45 million in facilities needs and another $56 million in spatial needs. The administration and Board of Education will need to decide what projects should be included in the bond and what can be funded from the general operating budget in upcoming years.

One of the administration's goals appears to be equity among all the elementary school facilities, so the proposal includes the addition of cafeterias, storage space, maker spaces and music rooms to provide each school with equivalent facilities. The plan is to build cafeterias at Edgewood, Fox Meadow, Greenacres and Heathcote Schools. The cost for new construction at the four elementary schools – not including Greenacres – is $4.9 million at Edgewood, $6 million at Fox Meadow. $6.6 million at Fox Meadow and $1.5 million at Quaker Ridge. Additional funds would be spent in each school to upgrade classrooms, hallways, bathrooms and more. The architects had originally proposed the addition of a large cafeteria/learning commons at the middle school but that is now on hold after discussions with the stakeholders.

At Greenacres, the architects are proposing $6.3 million in facilities work to the existing school and $23.3 million in new construction costs. The two additions would add 15,000 square feet to the building, with a one-story addition on Putnam Road and a two-story addition on Huntington Avenue. The proposed site diagram shows that a raised crosswalk would extend across Huntington Avenue from the school to the field. The existing blacktop would be used for 20-25 parking spaces.

Traffic site plans have not been worked out as yet. Early in the meeting Dr. Hagerman said that parking and traffic were not the architects' issues but later at the meeting Roger Smith from BBS said that a traffic plan would be included.

Responding to concerns that the site was too small for further additions, Smith said that he had discussed the project with his contact at the State Education Department and believes this is a "doable" project. Smith said the work schedule would be up to the construction management firm, but estimated that it would span three summers. He believed the internal renovations could be done during the summers with construction of the additions during the school year.

The architects' presentation also included a preliminary estimate for the cost of a new school. The estimate shows that a new 74,000 square foot school at $500 a square foot would be $37 mm in "raw cost" and $52 mm in "project cost." It does not provide any details on the $15 million difference between raw and project cost in the estimate. It also adds another $7.1 million to demolish the old building and do site work to create filed, playgrounds and parking on the former site of the school for a total project cost of $59mm. To date, no detailed estimate for a new school that includes financing and energy savings have been provided. Many have asked the district to produce a detailed comparison of the long-term costs to repair and maintain the old school versus the expense to build a new school.

The members of the Board of Education were polled on the issue of tax neutrality .... Would they support a bond that exceeded $60 or $70 million to address more of the identified needs?

The consensus among the members was cautiously positive overall, with a sentiment that if the additional debt would further the community's mission they would consider taking on additional debt. Here are excerpts from their statements:

Art Rublin: I prefer that we not be locked into a bond that simply replaces existing debt service. These projects are good investments. I would like to know the numbers on an annual basis. Even if we pass a tax neutral bond, the budgets for the next 3-4 years will be high to meet all our needs.

Scott Silberfein: I would like to hear more public comment on that. I think we need to have more discussion about learning commons and food service at the four elementary schools. In principal if there is a justifiable reason I am not against going over it.

Bill Natbony: I need more debt service numbers. It depends how much we are talking about. I don't want to be locked into a number – but I have heard from people who are concerned about their taxes and we have heard from a fair number of people who support investing in education.

Nina Cannon: In general I would prefer tax neutrality but if a $70-$80 million bond embraces what we are trying to do as a whole I would consider a non tax-neutral bond.

Chris Morin: A tax neutral bond is somewhat like the tax cap as a boundary – but the scope of what we are trying to do is even more important. We should not let the big numbers be more scary than they should be. $20 million of extra spending would be a 1% tax increase – but it is well within what we do every year. The value of the projects and its impact is what we should consider.

Lee Maude: My taxes went up 9% for two years in a row when I moved here. I have always been afraid that if taxes go up too much, empty nesters will leave and we will have crowded schools. I am still trying to get my head around the bump outs at Fox Meadow and Edgewood. What do we need vs. what do we want? The food service idea is new – Greenacres is our priority ... it does not have enough bathrooms. I want to be sure that Greenacres gets the school that they really need.

Assistant Superintendent Mattey said that the administration will retain a financial advisor to do the analyses requested by the board, including financing options for renovations and new construction and to provide numbers on the impact of varying levels of debt service on tax rates.  It is unclear about when these analyses will be provided

At the end of the meeting, the board presented a schedule that will lead to a bond referendum in December. Two public forums will be held in on Tuesday June 20 from9 to 11am and 7 to 9 pmfor residents to ask further questions to the architects. You can watch the meeting online here

Here is a list of the larger projects proposed for the elementary schools – besides Greenacres:

Edgewood: A learning commons, a kitchen, new instrumental music and chorus rooms, added storage.

Fox Meadow: A learning commons and kitchen with storage and bathrooms.

Heathcote: A new dining commons and kitchen with storage, expansion of offices, new maker space, new main vestibule.

Quaker Ridge, Interior and space redesign of lower level rooms, creation of a maker space, entry vestibule and storage.

Proposal for the middle school and high school are in redevelopment after community feedback.

Facilities upgrades were rated on a range of one to five, reflecting their priority. Here are the top five most expensive projects recommended for each elementary school and their priority:

Edgewood:
1A Replace Abandoned Forced Air Systems (2) $2,500,000
3 Replace Boilers and Burners $400,000
2 Replace Roofing $377,076
3 Utility Transformer Enclosure $300,000
2 CCTV Cameras $225,000

Fox Meadow:
3&1A Improved Ventilation $2,500,000
2 Replace Boilers and Burners $400,000
2 CCTV Cameras $225,000)
1A H&V Unit Repair and Replacement $200,000
3 Replace Old Panelboards $150,000

Greenacres:
Classroom Unit Ventilators $1,200,000
3 Athletic Field Work $1,000,000 (note this work is due to the construction)
3 Replace Roofing $568,000
2 Replace Boilers and Burners $400,000
3 Roof Insulation $343,000

Heathcote:
3 Replace Roofing $2,412,384
3&1B Provide Air Handling Unit for Gym $450,000
2 Replace Boilers and Burners $400,000
2 CCTV Cameras $225,000
3 Old Panelboards $200,000

Quaker Ridge:
1B Provide Fresh Air for 15 Classrooms $715,000
3 Replace Roofing $660,812
2 Replace Old Steam UV's $360,000
2 CCTV Cameras $225,000
3 Replace Old Panelboards $150,000

Comments   

-2 #14 Clown Show 2017-06-19 14:23
Summarizing what we know:
(1) These new architects have no design sense whatsoever (just look at their portfolio of work at other districts).
(2) It is now clear that the new architects are really just engineers, not really architects at all.
(3) We are probably stuck with these new "architects" for a long while as the District is not going to select new architects anytime soon.
Conclusion: Renovation is the only game in town. We should really be discussing how much more renovation/upgr ade is needed for GA beyond the $29.6 million that is baked into the bond. Sure, it probably will be another $30 million of additional renovations, and it will end up costing the same as a new school would. But, surely you cannot believe that these "architects" are capable of delivering a fabulous new school? (They have never done so.) So, make lemonade out of the lemons in this situation. Realize that you need to focus on what BBS can actually deliver--which is a steady stream of renovation projects. This isn't about the economics of build vs. renovate at all--it's about what can this clown show deliver? (You should know by now that you cannot ask any hard questions--you won't get sensible answers).
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+10 #13 Greenacres Resident 2017-06-18 18:45
Quoting Jane Smith:
Looks like the administration decided to do what is best for NIMBY rather than what is best for the kids. What a sad day for Scarsdale!


Jane, I believe the Administration wants to do what's best for Scarsdale. They have an option on the table that saves nearly $30MM and (if you believe the architects) ends with a terrific school. Relocate the kids if you have to, but how do you ignore that? Dont forget there is substantial life safety and code work that needs to be done at all the elementary schools. How would they pay for that if all the money from this bond goes to a new school? Issue more bonds and raise taxes? Where do you draw the line?
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+9 #12 Not a Greenacres Resident 2017-06-18 10:15
If you ask me, they should put up temporary trailers on the blacktop across the street from the school. Then gut and rebuild GA from the inside out. Make it look old if you like- keep it classic looking- but fix everything that's wrong over there. add other stories if you like, but do it right. Make it a gem.

This way the save-the-greene rs get their field and the renovators get their classic looking school and it can last for another 100 years because it's actually a new school on the inside.

I think they should also close that stretch of Huntington to traffic during school hours. If they can close NYC city streets during school hours, surely they can do it here.

Oh and use all the money from the bond to do it... the rest of us can wait for the next one I guess...

And instead of talking about installing central air into all our buildings across the district (which no-one wants to pay for once they see the ticket price) tell us about the costs for re-wiring that would enable each classroom to have a window unit in it. Where is that number? Why is that not a part of our discussion?
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+4 #11 Jane Smith 2017-06-17 08:40
Looks like the administration decided to do what is best for NIMBY rather than what is best for the kids. What a sad day for Scarsdale!
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+12 #10 Irony 2017-06-15 16:04
After all this save the field fighting, there will now be 25 cars sitting in a parking lot where kids used to play. So a little bit of the worst both- no new school and also the loss of a portion of the fields (to cars no less)
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+1 #9 Scarsdale Resident 2017-06-15 15:36
At some point, those that favor a new school are going to have to face the reality that the District can only build a new school if they exceed tax neutrality on the bond. Otherwise, they will have to abandon the work proposed at the other schools; much of which is code and life safety improvements that the Administration feels strongly needs to be done.

If they exceed tax neutrality, it will be difficult to explain why the most expensive option was chosen for Greenacres.
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+8 #8 New school proponent 2017-06-14 22:14
Blacktop as parking lot? What a disaster. Montrose and other "Save the Field"-ers now have to contend with the fact that their advocacy backfired. I'm sure they'd rather look at a beautiful new school with lovely landscaping than a soulless parking lot adorned with an elevated staircase to the school.

Plus, eliminating the basketball "courts" and leaving the schoolchildren without an area to play after school (ride bikes, rollerblade) will be a terrible loss.
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+6 #7 Greenacres Resident 2017-06-14 21:05
Is this renovation really going to bring the school all the way to Huntington and Putnan? How is that in "character" with the neighborhood? How is that possibly an improvement on what we have now? This is going to be such an eye sore.
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-4 #6 GA Parent 2017-06-14 17:58
This is a fair and balanced approach to the District facilities issues. Just because something is "old" does not mean it needs to be knocked down! Both architects have said the building was in good shape. Neither firm said it needed to be torn down. This is a case of NEED v. WANT. What makes sense for all the taxpayers and all the schools? This comprehensive plan proposed by professionals who have managed over $3B worth of projects. They are professionals, not the group of parents who haven't even lived through the school and just want "new" and spread lies and misinformation. Watch the video, look at the proposal, listen to the architects' answers. You will be pleasantly surprised.
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+4 #5 Greenacres Residents 2017-06-14 17:15
So the price for a renovation has gone down by $11mm with this architect and the price of a new school has gone up $7mm. Do they think that we are stupid?!?! We are once again being manipulated by Dr H.
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