Like an impressionistic painting by Monet, from far away the Pierson Middle/High School and Sag Harbor Elementary School buildings appear to be in top structural condition. But the closer you get to these imposing red-brick facilities, the more apparent the minor architectural flaws become. The parking lots are riddled with cracks in the asphalt and grass sprouts up through the crevices. The grouting between the bricks is slowly chipping away. And a sidewalk near the entrance of the middle and high school is fractured. The Sag Harbor School Board says the district will be able to correct these and several other facility problems with a nearly $7 million bond.
The ultimate decision to pass the bond, however, rests with the public, who will vote on it next Tuesday, December 8, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Pierson gym. As the bond project has been vetted in public meetings and workshops over the past several months, it has received praise and scorn. Some residents criticized the board for allocating close to $1 million to repair the parking lots and to add additional parking spaces during a recession. While others chided a decision to hold off on installing a pricey turf field at Pierson while the existing natural field is uneven and in need of remediation.
The district’s Long Range Planing Committee created a laundry list of repairs and improvements, including several elements using green technologies, over the course of the last school year. The list has been whittled down and now mainly focuses on upgrading the mechanical, electrical, plumbing and HVAC systems and making architectural improvements. Several of these upgrades are needed to bring the buildings into safety and code compliance, says a recent Power Point released by the district on the bond.
Above: A view of the deteriorating cement in between the bricks at Pierson.
At Pierson, the more expensive items in the bond include $479,550 to reconfigure the shop area in order to create a science project room and more storage. The board hopes to replace the roof over the YARD room and gym corridor, which was built in 1981, replace windows and masonry and repair the garage for a combined cost of $420,000. The Pierson kitchen would likely be expanded to include an additional stove, refrigerator, storage capacity and food preparation space for the cafeteria, but is priced at $360,000. Close to $200,000 would be spent to upgrade Pierson’s entry area, near Division Street, with improvements including removal of trees, replacement of the sidewalks and addition of a seat wall.
Across the road at the elementary school, the higher-priced projects deal with the structural needs of the building. Should the bond pass, for $378,300, the lower school’s roof, windows from 1947 and some masonry will be replaced or fixed. Additional storage will be created for $163,800. The playgrounds will be replaced with a rubberized surface to make it safer and accessible for handicapped individuals and the fields aerated, top-dressed and over-seeded for a cost of $180,000.
Above: The garage doors at Pierson also show signs of damage.
Included in the bond are several energy efficient items, which are expected to help the district accrue around $80,000 in annual savings. These “green” ideas include installing and integrating a web-based control system for $460,200, retrofitting lighting and motion sensors for $387,150 and setting up boiler burner controls for $21,476. All of the energy conservation items are expected to cost around $1,000,000, but the board believes this initial cost would be paid back over around 13 years.
A parking project included in the list of items covered by the bond has been widely debated throughout the community in recent months. In October, the project was expected to create 68 additional parking spaces in the district and improve the movement of traffic at the Jermain Avenue lot. The plan has since been scaled back by seven parking spaces. Overall, the board plans to increase parking in the district from 163 to 224 spaces. But rather than simply creating more parking, many residents have said they would prefer the district develop a more comprehensive plan in regards to traffic and parking — one that encourages walking, biking and public transporation alternatives.
Several projects didn’t make the final bond list like purchasing solar panels and a wind turbine for $214,570, installing a turf field with a walking track and lighting for around $2,300,000 and constructing a building for maintenance and storage for $835,000. Several off these items failed to make the cut due to their price tag. The board contends that the items proposed in the current bond will stave off further facility deterioration.
For a home assessed at $1 million, the bond will increase residents tax bills by $104 for a 15-year period. However, this year the district will pay off a $3 million bond from 1997. The older bond cost Sag Harbor residents around $42 per year. So the net, or overall, increase on the taxpayer’s school bill is $62 for a home assessed at $1 million, for the new bond costing $6,724,087.
The board has lobbied hard for the bond, but now it us up to the voters to approve this spending. Superintendent Dr. John Gratto will explain the details of the bond and answer questions on Saturday, December 5, at 10 a.m. in the Pierson library.
For a detailed list of the items in the bond please visit, http://www.sagharborschools.org/?q=node/1033.