WHITEHALL — Superintendent Patrick Dee was told the district’s boilers are on “borrowed time” and he said when it rains, the 30-year-old roofs leak.
The state mandated five-year building level survey found many needs that should be addressed in a capital project. Committees have met since January, Board of Education President Frank Barber Jr. said, and with the Tetra Tech architects, a capital project was created to appease these issues.
The Board of Education approved an $18.5 million project on Oct. 15. The project has two propositions and the first will include the replacement of the roofs and boilers.
The first proposition also is tax neutral, Dee said. If the first proposition is voted down, the second proposition would not be able to pass. Proposition No. 2 would raise taxes to pay off an $820,830 15-year loan.
The district did the math and said it would raise taxes for a home assessed at $100,000 by $3 for a resident with Enhanced STAR credit, $7 for a resident on STAR and $10 for a resident with no STAR assistance.
“It genuinely looks like you’ve stepped back in time when you go into our boiler rooms,” Dee said. “We have been put on notice, basically, from the folks who come and repair our boilers that we are on borrowed time.
“… It’s all mission critical items, sadly,” he added of the building’s infrastructure work. “We haven’t been able to put anything that’s really exciting into our project. Our (1960s) buildings are vintage.”
In addition to these concerns, if a teacher needs to lock the classroom’s door for a lockdown, they would have to leave the room, put the key in and lock it from the hallway, then pull the door shut as they re-enter.
“Clearly, that’s not safe,” Dee said. “New lock sets with proper handles” will be acquired. “… Safety is very, very important. You hope, from a safety standpoint, that you’ll never need it.”
Proposition No. 1 will include upgrades to the heating, ventilation and air condition system (or HVAC); fire alarm system; high school science rooms; and elementary school main office while adding a vestibule for its relocation. The high school would also get a new track with bleachers.
The cost of the work adds up to $16,592,061. The state will pay for 78.2 percent of the project and the district will utilize its $4,838,921 capital reserve fund.
Proposition No. 2 will enhance the elementary school bus loop, replace the elementary and high school’s interior doors, adapt a physical education/fitness room and have the weight room relocated.
During wrestling season, the district needs to rent space in the Whitehall Athletic Center, Dee said. The rented space would house the weight room equipment and the relocated weight room would eliminate the need to rent more space.
If the project is voted down and the boilers failed in the winter, Dee estimated it would cost students time in class and about $500,000 to rent temporary boilers before the new ones come in.
“We have gotten good use of our facilities,” Dee said. “They’ve been well maintained over the years, but they’ve been maintained to the point where the maintenance is no longer addressing our needs, plus they are completely (energy) inefficient.”
The vote will be held from noon to 9 p.m. Dec. 11 at the junior/senior high school.
“There are not a lot of bells and whistles that we are proposing,” Barber said. “It’s windows and the roofs and replacing the original equipment. … These are improvements that are long overdue.”