By Annette Hinkle
Sag Harbor School Interim Superintendent Dr. Carl Bonuso who discusses the district’s upcoming Capital Projects Bond Vote.
Proposition #1 is $7,357,132 and addresses issues related to facilities preservation and building renovations, code compliance and health and safety items. Hit the highlights, if you will, of some of the big issues that need attention.
We’re talking about implications in terms of safety, educational instruction and finances. We feel all of these considerations are beautifully addressed with the proposition. In large part, it talks about infrastructure — architectural, HVAC, electrical and plumbing. Then it talks about various components of our facilities including the auditorium, the cafeteria and kitchen expansion, the elementary gymnasium, the shop area – which we use for technology education and robotics — and the parking lot renovation. We’re really talking about the infrastructure. It has safety components that need to be addressed now.
Why does the board feel it’s necessary to put forth this bond proposition rather than using the budget to address these issues?
We’ve been doing a good job planning as part of the annual budget, not only in instruction but also in terms of facility management. But the age of the buildings and things which have been put off for so many years make it very difficult to finance [through the budget]. Combined with the artificial tax cap, which could be less than 2 percent, it’s impossible to do these things without making some very unsavory and in some instances, unsafe decisions. The number of instructors would be put in peril and the pace at which we address needed work would be slowed down considerably, it’s too much for the budget to handle those parameters right now.
Is this a good time to go out to bond?
Even people only looking through the financial lens would see many benefits of these proposals. There are favorable bond rates at this point and we have the ability to get 10 cents on the dollar — 10 percent back in additional aid — to do this kind of construction. We have the ability to reap immediate benefits but pay for it over time as opposed to otherwise, which is pay more than we would like immediately and hope the benefits are realized as fast as possible.
If we financed this through the budget we would be taking cash out of our pocket. We’re also saving money by addressing energy issues like replacing the windows. It’s like they’re open now and we’re throwing money out of them.
On top of that, there are conditions that need to be addressed. People say we need to minimize the risk of injury because things are not in the shape they need to be.
With the parking lot plan, what are you hoping to accomplish?
We want to make sure both entering and exiting the lots is safer than it is now. Basically what we hope to do is make sure we have in some instances where there are proper green barriers instead of cars leaning into the street.
You mean specifically the lot on Jermain Avenue?
Yes, where you go from having a parked car to an exiting car. With good planning we can avoid that and the horrific chance that someone runs between those cars.
This plan is better categorized as conceptual rather then what must be. The design and development phase occurs once you get the go ahead and then you fill in the details. But even at this early stage we talk about recessing the lot to create a barrier, if not a sidewalk, to get cars to enter safely and slowly. Whether there are any additional spots created is incidental. The most important thing is safe entrance and egress and travel occurring in such a fashion so it’s much safer for pedestrians and traffic.
Proposition 2 for $1,620,000 is for construction of a synthetic turf field and track at Pierson. What do you say to people who feel a turf field is a frivolous luxury?
Prop 2 is actually expanding and renovating the entire athletic outdoor facility, not only turfing a field. In this field poor area, it’s as if we’re adding three or four fields, but adding them vertically because it can be used much more during the day and for more sports. That field is for every child and is used by all phys ed classes and at recess. So instead of a situation where we can’t use the field because we need the grass to restore itself, or are seeding, grooming and fertilizing, that field will be available longer in the day, for more days and for more months of the year even for camps and community use.
We put so much into trying to keep the grass alive and repairing and replacing equipment, this will save money that way.
In Proposition 2 we’re also taking care of a seating area outside the cafeteria, creating scoreboards, fences and new dugouts and back stops. In a way it’s saying Pierson will have a home field, whether it’s a student for phys ed, an athlete for a game, a community member who wants to walk the track or residents to use for a fundraising event. It’s so much more dimensional.
What was the reasoning behind separating the turf field and making it its own bond proposition?
To us, the infrastructure was categorizing work in-house and the field work was a nice way of categorizing some of the outside work. They are different enough to separate. We try to allow a nice balance so people have some choice in voting for what they’re into, but so every element doesn’t have it’s own proposition.
So overall, you’re happy with the way the propositions have been formulated?
This has been our answer to what needs to be done. We had 21 people — school staff and community members at large, and still more than the 21 are coming in — with ideas to tweak the game plan. This has become “our” plan. The planning to modify the school should be a broad based team effort and that’s how in design and implementation it will be done to make sure it looks special and is special.
We need a school as special as the children and the community it serves.
The Capital Projects Bond Vote will be held Wednesday, November 13 from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. at the Pierson High School gymnasium, 200 Jermain Avenue, Sag Harbor.