ICC mulls how much to spend and when

KINDERHOOK – The Ichabod Crane Board of Education discussed the cost of a proposed capital improvement project at their regular meeting on July 10. Several board members said that they would support at project that was around $20 million, or at least $15 million, to deal with several major issues at campus buildings.

The board is working with a district facilities study that suggested $30 million in repairs and upgrades are needed to the school’s buildings. More recently a board committee has been working with the architecture and engineering firm CSArch to look at a proposed scope of work, which includes roofing and window repairs, road work and upgrades to some of the classrooms, especially in the middle and high school buildings.

The board is considering a suggestion to break the project into two or three phases, which would be five years apart. The work proposed in phase one currently would cost about $15 million. Voters would have to approve each phase at special elections. The board hopes to have a vote on phase one this December.

The board was told by the district’s financial adviser, Barnard Donegan, Inc, at a June meeting that if the capital project costs $11 million or less there would be no tax increase to property owners in the district.

Board member Susan Ramos said that in her almost nine years on the board the need for upgrades has only gone up. “We really have to get the work done,” she said at Tuesday night’s meeting. Board member Tammy Crawford said she would support asking the residents for more funding for the project to get more done in phase one. “Costs go up, they don’t go down,” she said. “In 7 to 10 years, what’s it going to be?” she said of the costs.

“I could support going higher,” said board member John Antalek of asking for residents to approve $20 million, but he stressed he wanted to know what was going into the project. He and other board members talked about the need to replace walls in the middle school’s “pods,” or wings, that were temporary and now separate classes from each other in the 5th, 6th and 7th grades. The total cost of those repairs would be $8.8 million and in the current capital project proposal the district is looking at doing one pod in phase one.

Board member Regina Rose said, “We have to be careful about the items” in the project. She said that district voters don’t want to spend money on items in the project they don’t want in the district. She is not a supporter of installing synthetic turf at one of the athletic fields, a proposal which currently is part of phase one of the project.

Board member Jeffery Ouellette pointed out that a $20-million project equals half the amount of the district’s $40-million annual operating budget. He stressed that the district has no capital reserves to put toward the project. The district has opened a capital reserve fund, which was approved by voters in May, but there are no funds in the account yet.

By the end of the meeting, district Superintendent Michael Vanyo said he would talk to the architects about making sure all the must-have items that will be approved by the state Education Department are in the phase one. He said that what he heard the board saying is: “Let’s look anywhere between $15 and $20 million.”

The board will host a public forum on the project July 24 from 6 to 9 p.m. in the high school auditorium. The board discussed the format for the forum at their meeting Tuesday. They decided to have a presentation on the proposed project and then break into stations to get feedback from the public. Mr. Vanyo said CSArch, the district’s financial adviser and the construction firm the board hired to manage project will be at the July 24 meeting.

Information about the project is on the district website at www.ichabodcrane.org and the board is working on getting a survey up online for residents to fill out about the project.

Residents at this week’s meeting stressed that board needed to be more clear about what is in the proposal and why the work needs to be done.

One resident said that the board needed to explain the project in ways that people will understand. And another parent in the district asked the board, “Where’s the why?… Why are we doing this?”

The board hopes to hear what residents want in the final version of the capital project at the July 24 meeting. They need to finalize what the proposed project by October to move forward with the special election on December 12.

Also at the meeting:

• The board held the annual organizational meeting before the regular meeting July 10. Matthew Nelson was elected president of the board, with former President Anthony Welcome being elected vice president. “I appreciate the vote of confidence,” Mr. Nelson said. He also thanked Mr. Welcome for his years as board president. New board member Jessica Berner was also sworn in

• Mr. Ouellette asked Business Manager Michael Brennan about an audit the state Comptroler’s Office was conducting in the district. Mr. Brennan said the state would have report by the end of the summer. He did not go into detail about what the state was reviewing.

The next regular board meeting will be on August 21 at 7 p.m. The board will hold a special meeting August 7 at 7 p.m. to discuss the feedback from the community on the capital project received at the July 24 forum.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale email

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