By Tessa Raebeck; photography by Michael Heller
Voters passed both Sag Harbor School District bond propositions that were on the ballot November 13, agreeing to fund around $9 million in capital projects proposed by the school district.
School administrators, members of the board of education and of the educational facilities planning committee, the group which drafted the bond, and other supporters gathered in the gymnasium at Pierson Middle/High School after the polls closed last Wednesday to hear the results.
The first proposition, with a projected total cost of $7,357,132 in funding, passed by a wide margin, with 740 votes for it and 369 against it. The bond will cost a resident of a home with a market value of $1 million about $8 a month.
With an emphasis on health and safety, the first proposition covers the majority of capital projects, addressing facilities renovations and upgrades considered essential by the district.
In addition to basic improvements such as building code compliance and window replacements, the first proposition includes projects designed to enhance the curriculum for Sag Harbor’s students, such as renovations to the Pierson Middle/High School auditorium and technology classrooms. The parking lots at both schools will be restored and reconfigured to allow for safer egress for emergency vehicles, Pierson Middle/High School kitchen will be expanded and adhere to health department codes, and a storage room will be added in the elementary school gymnasium.
The second proposition, which totals $1,620,000 in spending, passed by a much closer margin, with 585 votes for it and 507 votes against it. Costing just under $2 a month for a home with a market value of $1 million, it covers installation of a turf field and two-lane walking track at Pierson Middle/High School. According to Athletic Director Todd Gulluscio, the turf field will improve safety, minimize maintenance costs, enhance the field’s durability and utilization and support both the athletic teams and physical education curriculum.
Over 1,100 residents turned out to vote last Wednesday, a far larger turnout than in 2009, when a $6.7 million bond failed with just 637 residents voting. Theresa Samot, president of the school board, was pleased with the turnout, saying it compared to voter numbers typically seen for budget votes and school board elections, rather than bond votes.
“I am excited for this community,” Dr. Bonuso said after hearing the propositions had passed. “I think that it has a bright and exciting future and it’s a future that was built with collaboration and with input and the perspectives of the entire school community.”
“I just think that this is absolutely terrific,” agreed Peter Solow, who has served on and off on facilities committees for almost 20 years. As both an art teacher and the coach of the men’s varsity soccer team at Pierson High School, Solow was happy and relieved to hear the propositions had passed successfully.
“Particularly directed towards the things that we knew were health and safety issues,” he continued. “But taking care of the auditorium — which was one part of the bond that we didn’t address in [past bonds] — getting that rectified and the turf field, it’s going to be transforming, it’s going to be terrific.”
Now that the bonds have passed, the district enters the design and development stage, during which the details of the projects are hammered out and letters of intent are sent to the State Education Department (SED) for ultimate approval.
With the guidance of district architect Larry Salvesen, Dr. Bonuso and School Business Administrator John O’Keefe are in the process of mapping out a strategy for sending the propositions to the state, as well as a projected timeline for the construction projects. The district is grouping different components of the work separately, so as not to hold up straightforward projects like plumbing and heating upgrades by grouping them with items expected to have a longer development and review phases, such as the turf field. Administrators will continually file letters of intent with the state as different parts are finalized.
“There will be certain parts of the project that you don’t necessarily need input on mechanical nuts and bolts,” O’Keefe said at Monday’s board of education meeting. “But things where there’s design, where there’s choices, those things will take longer.”
For projects with specific details that still need to be planned out, like the reconfiguration of the schools’ parking lots, the district plans to reconvene the educational facilities planning committee with both returning and new members.
“It could take four to five months for the design development phase to be complete for all the parts of both propositions to go up to State Ed.,” said O’Keefe.
Once a letter of intent is filed with the state, it is expected to take about 26 weeks for those projects to get reviewed. O’Keefe is hopeful the bidding of projects to contractors will start this summer and construction will begin in fall 2014. The largest construction components, in particular the auditorium, will be done when school is not in session, he said.
“One way or another,” said Dr. Bonuso. “We’re going to work out a plan that minimizes any obstruction to instruction.”