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August 30, 2013: Architect's Presentiation Initiates Discussion
September 13, 2013: Review Contiues On Scope and Timing of Referendum
October 22, 2013: Discussion Focuses on Size of Overall Project
October 28, 2013: Review of HS and MS Projects at 1st Special Meeting
November 5, 2013: Elementary Projects and Bus Garage Update at 2nd Special Meeting
November 7, 2013: Focus on Infrastructure Projects
Architect's Presentation Initiates Extensive Review of Proposed Capital Improvements
AUG 30, 2013 - The Board of Education conducted a comprehensive and wide-ranging discussion at its August 29 meeting about proposals for extensive capital projects throughout the district and the possibility of asking residents to vote on a bond referendum to fund them.
The discussion began with a presentation by representatives from KG&D Architects, who have been engaged by the Board to develop plans for a wide range of capital projects. (KG&D designed the new high school cafeteria which was completed in 2011.) The presentation covered a broad array of items across the district. Some of the main objectives:
The most urgent concern is the bus garage, which is in a state of serious disrepair and has long outlived its usefulness. The proposal would relocate the garage to the maintenance building behind Harbor Hill School (for maintenance of the buses only; parking of buses would remain near the high school). In addition to specific proposals and illustrations of changes to the buildings, the architect's proposal includes extensive site work and infrastructure upgrades, including traffic and parking issues at several buildings, storm water drainage, lighting and electrical systems, security, locker rooms, ceilings, floors, playgrounds and playing fields.
The projects under consideration were identified mostly through the work of the District Facilities Committee mentioned earlier. The Committee, comprising members of the community, administration and school board, reviewed the district's physical plant and met extensively during the 2012-13 school year. While the school district has been able to undertake capital projects in recent years without having to resort to additional borrowing, the scope of the work identified by the District Facilities Committee far exceeds the year-to-year capital outlay in the school budget, or funds that could be realistically saved and allocated annually through the capital reserve fund.
The preliminary cost estimated by the architects for the major projects identified and illustrated in the presentation is about $34.5 million. Not included is an additional $10-$20 million in infrastructure upgrades, of which $4.75 million has already been approved by voters in previous capital propositions.
There are several financial factors currently in the district's favor:
In addition, most, though not all, projects would be eligible for state aid. Roslyn's reimbursement rate for capital projects is about 10 percent.
Board members had many questions for the architects and the administration, and voiced some concerns about the cost and other factors. The Board talked at length about the need to distinguish among projects that are fundamental to the district's educational mission and/or essential to maintaining our buildings and grounds -- which the architects estimate to be worth about $250 million -- and those that may be highly desirable but are not pressing. The need for extensive community outreach and feedback was also discussed, as it was acknowledged that the proposal is too large and complex to be appreciated easily through mass communications.
The discussion will continue as the Board moves to determine the scope of the final proposal and establish a timeline. A successful bond vote during the current school year, if feasible, may enable work to begin on parts of this ambitious proposal by the summer of 2015.
SEPT 13, 2013 - The Board of Education continued its discussion of a large-scale capital program on September 12, with ongoing consideration of the scope and timing of a proposed referendum.Several members of the District Facilities Committee joined the discussion at the Board's last meeting. They provided some perspective on one of the more critical questions before the Board, namely, distinguishing between projects that may be needed to update the district's infrastructure, and those that may be desirable and beneficial but not necessarily essential. Residents on the committee expressed the opinion that much of the district's physical plant is in need of modernization -- the consensus view of committee members who reviewed the district's buildings and grounds comprehensively during the 2012-13 school year -- and that a substantial portion of the items identified in the architect's presentation on August 29 did in fact represent important infrastructure projects.
Furthermore, Dr. Brenner emphasized the importance, when contemplating a capital program on a large scale, of considering not only the condition of the district today, but anticipating capital issues that will arise over the next several years. Eric Kaeyer, the lead architect whose firm successfully renovated the high school cafeteria in 2011, reiterated the point that the district possesses several hundred million dollars in property and buildings. It is to be expected that the systems in these buildings need to be modernized every few decades, and that the investment required is a substantial one. Ms. Ben-Levy noted that the district would be short-changing the community and its children if it failed to modernize the schools.
While much of the discussion focused on particulars -- for example, the various roles of technology, including in each school's library/media center; different ways of achieving heightened security in the schools; the function of large meeting spaces, such as the proposed new gymnasium/auditorium at Harbor Hill; and the relative importance of public spaces such as hallways and entry ways -- a good deal of time was devoted to the process of creating the proposal and eliciting community input. Dr. Brenner said he will undertake a communications effort, utilizing the reach of the district's website, email, local newspapers and other means, both to encourage residents' participation in these ongoing discussions and educate the public about the proposal as it is developed. Outreach to staff and students, which was a highly productive aspect of the high school cafeteria project, will also be undertaken.
A vote in December having been judged impractical, given the time required for further review, the Board is now contemplating the completion of a referendum proposal by the winter with a vote next spring.
Discussion Focuses on Size of Overall ProposalOCT 22, 2013 -- The focus turned largely to the size of a bond proposal during the Board's latest discussion on the topic at its regularly scheduled meeting at the Heights School on October 17. After Dr. Brenner reiterated several areas of agreement -- including the building of a new bus maintenance facility and renovation of playing fields at Harbor Hill -- much of the discussion turned to the question of how large a proposal the community would likely support. While items designated as "Priority 1" and "Priority 2" by the District Facilities Committee, and further refined by the Board, are generally seen as important to address in the near term, there is still some work to be done to determine the proper level of priority for some of the items listed.There was also discussion of several "big ticket" items, most notably air conditioning in the school buildings, which is the capital improvement most frequently requested by parents and students. Dr. Brenner indicated that the cost of cooling some of the common spaces, particularly cafeterias that don't already have air conditioning (at East Hills and Harbor Hill) and libraries, as well as second floor classrooms throughout the district, would cost approximately $4.5 million, including electrical upgrades. However, this estimate has not been included in any of the lists of priorities prepared to date, and would therefore be additional. The cost of ongoing electrical usage was questioned, though the cost of installation is by far the larger expense. While some members of the Board expressed concern that air conditioning might be seen as excessive and non-essential, others noted that the level of learning is negatively affected during the beginning and ending weeks of the school year, and that testing in very warm and humid conditions is also detrimental.Since the Board's previous discussion, further research into a possible Energy Performance Contract has resulted in an estimate of perhap $2 million in possible district-wide savings. These would come primarily from the replacement of older windows and doors and lighting upgrades. This will be factored into further review of the potential cost of the overall proposal.Dr. Brenner handed out an updated priority list. If every item on the list were addressed in the bond proposal, it would total $48 million, translating into an annual additional cost to the average homeowner of $396, after allowing for the retirement of existing debt and alternative sources of revenue. After considerable dialogue, most of the Board members agreed that they would be comfortable with a total proposal in the amount of $35-$40 million, though Mr. Haber felt that this was too high given the existing economic climate. Dr. Brenner suggested that the discussion at the two upcoming special meetings should break down the proposal by buildings (HS and MS at one meeting, elementary schools at the other) with a goal of crafting a proposal that would stay within the acceptable range of $35-$40m. This review would necessarily consider scaling down some of the larger items (for example, the HH gymnasium expansion, and the entrances to several of the buildings), to see if the architect can identify potential cost savings by altering some of the designs, which remain preliminary.Mr. Dragone explained that voters must ultimately approve the total expenditure for all projects included in a bond proposal, regardless of the sources of funding. An affirmative vote does not obligate the district to borrow the entire amount, as the overall cost may be reduced, for example, by allocations from the debt service reserve fund or energy performance contract savings.
Detailed Review of HS & MS Projects at October 28 Special Meeting
OCT 28, 2013 -- An updated Budget Worksheet [revised & updated 11-8-13] was distributed as a guide to the Board’s discussion at this meeting and the second special meeting scheduled on November 5.
Erik Kaeyer and Russell Davidson, partners at KG&D Architects, led the discussion through each line item on the worksheet, beginning with the high school. A summary follows.
Roslyn High School
Sitework Front: Remove bus facility, renovate parking lots, curbs, storm drainage, landscaping (exclusive of area nearest the main entrance, where a new canopy is proposed). Includes all work necessary to remove gas tanks and other parts of the bus facility. Contingency is included for all environmental requirements.
New Entrance: A canopy, a wall to obscure the loading dock, and a new secure vestibule (“man trap”) are proposed.
Media center: Complete renovation of the library space, and expansion into the adjacent courtyard, with multiple working spaces outfitted for current technology. Board members asked how much usage a media center would be expected to have. High school administrators attested that the current library is heavily used, though it is antiquated and the amount of instruction currently possible in the library is very limited. A technologically up-to-date facility would be expected to be very popular, as the demand for space for collaborative student learning is high.
Corridors & Lockers: Thorough renovation and uniformity of floors, walls, ceilings and lighting. All lockers would be replaced, approximately 1200 new ones would be installed that would be larger than current lockers (to accommodate larger items such as backpacks). They would have a larger footprint but there is sufficient hallway space to accommodate it. While some students report using their lockers infrequently or not at all, administrators believe lockers are absolutely necessary. Regular hallway lockers are not intended for sports equipment; renovation of locker rooms would accommodate such items.
Photo Lab Renovation: Half of existing garage/bay, now used for storage, would be used. Current space too small and thoroughly inadequate, as program has grown enormously in recent years.
Greenhouse: Current greenhouse is antiquated. New structure would double the footprint. It is used extensively by science classes.
Second-floor air conditioning: Includes electrical upgrades. The question of central air conditioning versus window units was discussed. Central units are more energy efficient, more controllable by zone, and provide superior circulation of fresh air than window units, which are not an optimal way to air condition a large space like a school.
Fire alarm & Clock Upgrade: Fire alarm upgrade is a high priority. Clock upgrade is for a digital clock system that would be integrated with the alarm system; it is not deemed a high priority.
Bus Garage Concerns
A number of residents who live adjacent to the facilities building expressed concern about the impact of moving the bus repair facility to a location that is very close to homes surrounding the property. Various aspects of the plan – the presence of a gasoline tank for refueling, additional traffic, maintenance work performed on site – were raised. Dr. Brenner reassured residents that the garage is for the light maintenance of buses during the hours when transportation staff is working, typically weekdays from 7:30am to 3:30pm. No heavy maintenance or body work will be performed on the site, nor will buses be parked there. (An earlier version of the architect’s plan showed parking for buses; this was an error and has been corrected.) A parking area for buses on the middle school property is being proposed (see below). He invited concerned residents to meet with him and discuss their concerns in more depth, and to return to the Board with results of these discussions at the next public meeting.
Middle School The middle school is in the best condition overall of the school buildings, having undergone major renovations in the last decade. Consequently, the extent of the proposal is smaller than for the other schools. Sitework entails repaving and addressing drainage issues. A parking area for buses adjacent to the Northern State Parkway at the southernmost part of the property is under consideration.
Mr. Haber asked about opportunities for cooperative procurements, perhaps through Nassau BOCES or group purchase agreements through New York State. The architects explained that it is difficult to coordinate such purchases, because each district’s facilities are different, and there are multiple contractors whose work has to be coordinated as well. Any items that are commodities (e.g., lighting fixtures) provide opportunities for competitive pricing. However, the architects indicated that site-specific bidding often outperforms state contract pricing (e.g., on the recently completed field house at the high school).
Additionally, the Board discussed whether all of the funding approved by voters needs to be expended within a set period of time. For example, if economic conditions suddenly worsened, would the Board have the option of suspending implementation of parts of the capital program and delay borrowing? Further clarification will be provided, but it was pointed out that the complexity of planning and phasing various stages of the work, and the political consequences of not following through on projects approved by voters, would make such a decision difficult even if legally permissible.
Energy Performance Contract Regarding the possibility of entering into a new energy performance contract (EPC) as a means of mitigating the costs of energy-related items, Kevin Carpenter, Assistant to the Superintendent for Administration & Special Projects, reported that it is challenging to make an accurate assessment of potential savings without extensive data about the many variables involved, such as weather and building energy consumption, which change from year to year. He has been meeting with Johnson Controls, with which the district has an earlier EPC, for further study.
The review of capital projects proposed for the East Hills, Harbor Hill and Heights Schools will proceed on November 5. An engineer will accompany the architects to discuss infrastructure projects at the Board’s regularly scheduled meeting on November 7.
Review Continues with Elementary School Projects and New Developments Concerning Bus GarageNOV 5, 2013 -- Dr. Brenner opened the meeting by noting that the Board and Administration are listening carefully to the input provided by residents and that changes to the referendum plan are being made wherever possible. For example, a resident had raised concerns about the proposal to address the shortage of parking at Heights School, and that part of the plan is being reviewed.In addition, the Superintendent has met with some of the residents who raised concerns at the October 28 meeting about the relocation of the bus garage to the facilities building. The district is consequently in the process of attempting to find an alternate site off-campus for refueling and parking of buses. (More on the bus garage later in the account of the November 5 meeting.) Architect Erik Kaeyer once again reviewed the budget worksheet that had been distributed at the October 28 meeting and explained how the data is organized. He continued with a line-by-line review of the plans for the elementary schools. East HillsSitework: Parking and paving, including some additional parking spaces, curbs and sidewalks. There was some discussion about the shortage of parking. This is also a safety issue, which makes it a higher priority.New entrance & security: Creates "man trap" for security, as proposed for the other schools. The possibility of installing solar panels on the roof of the proposed canopy was raised. Schools that already have an enclosed vestibule with handicap accessibility offer an opportunity for a lower-cost resolution to security concerns (unlike Heights and the High School, where vestibules are not enclosed and/or handicap accessible).Corridor: Floors, walls, ceilings and lighting throughout. In response to a question about the relative merits of different flooring materials, Mr. Kaeyer noted that terrazzo flooring is the longest lasting but most expensive to install. Mr. Saffron noted that no significant renovations have been made to the interiors at EH since it was built in the early 1950s, and urged residents to consider if they would let 50-60 years pass without renovations to their homes.Clock upgrade: Eliminated from plan. The system is outdated and prone to malfunction, but there are less expensive ways of addressing it. Air conditioning: Library/media center, cafeteria and second floor classrooms. Mr. Dubner indicated that in his discussions with residents he has found surprisingly strong support for including air conditioning in the plan. Media center: Expansion and renovation of existing space. The aim is similar to the plan for the high school, but on a smaller scale. One significant difference is the greater emphasis on physical reading material in the elementary schools as compared to the secondary schools.A resident asked whether the additional energy cost for air conditioning had been considered. This had been discussed at a previous meeting, and Mr. Carpenter, the district’s head of facilities, once again explained that he has been working with Johnson Controls (with which the district had a previous energy performance contract) to arrive at a realistic projection based on the many variables involved (number of units, degree days, etc). More information on this question will be available in a few weeks. A new energy performance contract is being contemplated to mitigate future energy costs.HeightsSitework: Parking and paving.Main Entrance: Create a new, handicapped-accessible main entrance on the Carlisle Ave side of the building, with a canopy extending to the sidewalk. At the current main entrance, there is no protection from the weather or handicap access. The new design would be more secure and would entail relocating the main office to be adjacent to the new entrance. Additional options are to build a new library nearer the new main entrance (the existing one is very small, inadequate and windowless), or build a new cafeteria closer to the playground instead and renovate the existing cafeteria space into a library (as that space was utilized decades ago). Use of the existing food service area would keep the cost down. The building’s elevator is near the proposed new entrance, providing much improved access. The old main entrance would no longer serve as an entry point for visitors, but could still be used for students arriving and departing for the buses.Ms. Colardi, principal of the Heights School, emphasized the importance of locating the main office close to the entrance.In sensitivity to the neighborhood and respect for the original character of the building, the exterior of any new construction will have a clear architectural connection with the existing building. Corridors: Floors, walls, ceilings, lighting throughout. Media center: Either by the new entrance or where existing cafeteria is.Air Conditioning: On the second floor and in new media center. Existing cafeteria space is already air conditioned.The plan for Heights will also eliminate the hazardous "bump-out" that protrudes from the library into the gymnasium.Harbor HillSitework: Primarily paving. This item has been reduced from the original proposal and does not include an increase in parking capacity.Playing fields: Eliminate tennis courts, renovate fields and playgrounds. New entrance/security: Similar to East Hills, this item has been reduced in cost as there is an existing enclosed vestibule that can be renovated, and a proposed canopy has been removed from the plan. Corridors: Floors, walls, ceilings, lighting. The architect will aim for consistency of the floor tile and other elements throughout, which are now quite varied. The colored tile on the walls, including students' art projects, will remain. (Damaged terrazzo floors will be restored under previously approved capital measures.)Gym addition/renovation: The gymnasium as originally proposed has been eliminated from the current plan, which called for doubling the space and adding a stage. Demolition and building new would cost about the same as expanding the existing space, because of the need for major supports for the existing load-bearing exterior wall. A lively discussion ensued. Mr. Valauri indicated that he would like to keep the gym under consideration if possible. Ms. Ben Levy noted that none of the other elementary schools have a space where the entire school can congregate. Mr. Saffron suggested that a $5 million gymnasium could put the entire bond at risk. Mr. Haber expressed his wish to see the district’s athletic facilities enhanced, but asked if a scaled-down version of this plan at a lower cost were possible. Mr. Kaeyer explained that a gymnasium is not just a school space, but also a community space. Mr. Saffron pointed out that the district had already invested heavily in several excellent public spaces for the community to gather (including the high school cafeteria where this meeting was being held). Clock upgrade: Eliminated, as in the other buildings, in favor of a less costly solution.Window replacement: Building-wide. This is a high priority item.Air conditioning: Second floor, cafeteria, media center.Media Center: Expansion and renovation of the existing space, as in the other schools.Bus GarageQuite a few residents again came to express their concerns about the construction of a bus maintenance garage on the east side of the facilities building. A variety of environmental, health and quality of life issues were raised. Dr. Brenner acknowledged that there is no space in the community where residents would be pleased to have the maintenance garage located near their homes or businesses, but that he has spent several years trying to identify a viable alternative, and to no avail. Residents mentioned several potential locations and solutions, but all had been considered previously and were not adequate for a variety of reasons. (The placing of fuel tanks, lack of existing bus maintenance facilities in the area, and the necessity of having the facility in close proximity to the school district are among the mitigating factors. State regulations also limit the district’s options; for example, there are restrictions on district use of property outside its boundaries.) Other sites within the district have also been considered but were ultimately found inadequate. For example, part of the middle school property was considered but had to be weighed against the relative scarcity of athletic fields in Roslyn. Placing the garage in the rear of the high school near the Administration Building would result in the sacrifice of many parking spaces and could also impact access to that part of the campus.Among the major advantages of locating the bus garage at the facilities building, in addition to the property already being owned by the school district, is its existing infrastructure -- power, water, etc -- and sufficient property. It was reiterated that the facilities building already has a two-vehicle bay for the repair of maintenance vehicles; the new facility will have four bays, effectively an expansion of the existing use. Every reasonable effort to minimize the impact of having the garage on that site is being considered. In particular, since the October 28 meeting at which these concerns were expressed, Dr. Brenner has entered negotiations for a different location for refueling, as well as parking of buses, though he could not guarantee the outcome while it is in process. (The plan does not entail parking buses at the facilities building site, in any event.) In addition, there will be no work done outside the hours of 7:30am-3:30pm, and all the work will be indoors. Buses would not idle at length while work is being performed. New fencing and landscaping would reduce the visual impact.Fiscal QuestionsMr. Dragone, Assistant Superintendent for Business, indicated that the district has spent $24 million over the last eight years without any bonding. Fund balance, reserves and recovered stolen funds have all been applied to capital projects. We have now reached the end of the period when we can continue to fund extensive capital projects from these sources and/or the operating budget.Mr. Haber suggested that support for the bond will best be garnered by appealing to residents’ sense of what is best for the community, rather than to any individual ways in which they may benefit from the proposal.Next MeetingsOn Thursday evening November 7 (Roslyn High School, 8pm), an engineer will discuss infrastructure items. On November 21 (Roslyn Middle School, 8pm), the Board will continue to decide what projects will be included in the bond. To meet time requirements for a vote in May, the scope of the bond will need to be finalized before the end of the calendar year.
Focus on Infrastructure UpgradesNOV. 7, 2013 - A revised budget planning worksheet was handed out, reflecting some changes that resulted from previous public review sessions. It shows a revised cost (not included in the bond total) for a scaled-down version of the gymnasium renovation at Harbor Hill School. Erik Kaeyer from KG&D Architects also showed a conceptual drawing of an additional gymnasium at the rear of the high school, as an additional option should the Board wish to address the concern raised at prior meetings about an overall shortage of gym space in the district. The cost, about $2.25 million, compares with about $2.9 million for the scaled-down expansion of the Harbor Hill gym. (The High School gym concept is also not included in the bond total on the worksheet.) Other adjustments on the worksheet reflect reconsideration of site work at the middle school and East Hills, and the potential addition of a new cafeteria or library space at Heights.Mr. Kaeyer and Laurence Barile, President of Damiano Barile Engineers, then reviewed infrastructure projects that are listed on the second page of the budget planning worksheet. These were compiled from several sources: a five-year district plan created in 2010, annual visual inspections, and the District Facilities Committee's comprehensive review from 2012-13. This extensive list of possible projects was reviewed for duplication and for items that have been addressed in the interim as part of previous and ongoing capital initiatives. The resulting list on the worksheet comprises projects in all five schools that are being proposed for upgrade, covering a broad range of systems that in most instances are part of original building construction, have not been updated in decades, and are at or near the end of their life cycles. They fall into a variety of categories: masonry, doors and windows, drainage, exhaust vents, lighting, stairs and railings, tile and glass, electrical panels and wiring, sinks and cabinetry, unit ventilators, emergency lighting, exterior lighting, fire alarms, heating and ventilation components, and plumbing.All of these Items are listed with cost estimates on the worksheet linked here. Unlike the renovation and construction projects on page 1, there is less distinction between infrastructure items identified as Priority 1 and Priority 2. The former are relatively more urgent, but both encompass items that demand attention in the near term.Mr. Saffron inquired about the possibility of renovating classroom interiors, where students spend most of their time. It was noted that many classroom floors have been replaced and that classrooms are painted at regular intervals. Replacement of lights and ceilings will be explored. Much classroom furniture has also been replaced in recent years from the operating budget. Mr. Dubner asked whether the small bathrooms attached to some elementary classrooms would be renovated, now that all other bathrooms have been updated throughout the district. Sinks and cabinetry within the classrooms are deemed to be in more urgent need of replacement, though replacing some bathroom sinks, as well as water fountains, would perhaps address some of these issues adequately.Mr. Carpenter, the district’s head of facilities, reported that generators are functioning throughout the district (though the one at EH is in the process of being repaired). They provide power for heating, hallway lighting and other essential items. At a later stage in the development of the plan, a construction manager who is independent of the architect will review all of the proposed projects to ensure that cost estimates are accurate and in accordance with current industry standards, and that nothing has been overlooked. All cost estimates include “soft” costs (such as architectural and construction management fees) as well as contingency costs.Continued review of projects and costs will continue at the Board’s next regularly scheduled meeting on November 21 at the Roslyn Middle School at 7:00pm. Dr. Brenner reiterated that he aims to have a finalized proposal by December in order to meet the timeline for a vote in the spring.