ICC eyes sunny days ahead with new solar panels

KINDERHOOK–The Ichabod Crane Board of Education received an update on the $27-million capital improvement project at the board meeting March 3. The major part of the project, which includes work on all three of the district’s school buildings, should start this summer.

For the first time at a meeting, the board discussed the solar panels that are proposed to be placed behind the primary school in what is now a wooded area. The panels are part of an energy performance contract (EPC), which will offset about $1 million of the total construction costs.

A team from Con Edison, which was awarded the EPC contract, presented the plans for the panels, which will connect to the National Grid system. Like panels on homes, the energy produced by these panels will feed the energy grid and the school district gets a credit. The credits are expected to cover electric power costs for the district’s buildings.

According to the representatives from Con Ed at the meeting, there will be no capital outlay for the panels.

Plans for the panels will have to go to the state Education Department (SED) for approval. The Con Ed team said they plan to have the designs submitted by August and have approval back by December. The panels will be installed in 2021.

They will sit east of the primary school and when asked about the trees in the area, the Con Ed team said some would have to go to make room for the panels and mitigate shading.

School Board President Matthew Nelson said at the meeting that the panels are a new part of the plan and that more information will be posted online. The board has been talking about an EPC as a way to do energy upgrades since the beginning of discussions of the capital project.

As for the rest of the construction project, the board is still waiting for approval from SED for the design plan. Representatives from CSArch, the project architects, and Turner Construction, the project management company, were at the meeting on Tuesday to go over the plans. They both said that construction bids should be going out this spring and hopefully by May the board will be awarding contracts for the work to construction companies.

Larry Tune, from Turner, said that the project is currently projected to be $500,000 under budget. The district has moved some projects to a contingency list for consideration if there is money left over.

Residents in the district approved spending $27 million on the upgrades in December 2018.

The project will mean major construction work in the high school, which is getting a new technology wing and upgrades to the math, science and art classrooms, was well as an updated guidance office. The middle school is also getting a major overhaul to upgrade most of the groups of classrooms, known as pods, and an upgraded gym.

Mr. Tune said they would be constructing temporary classrooms in the current gym while construction on the pods is taking place. Students will move back into their classrooms as the work is completed.

The primary school will have the least amount of work, but there will be some energy and safety upgrades. There is information about the construction process on the district website at www.ichabodcrane.org/district/capital-projects/

Also at the meeting, the board passed a motion “offering the following criticism of board member Jeffery Ouellette and take this opportunity to restate the board’s commitment to its ideals and principles of lifting students up and giving all students an opportunity for a high quality education founded in respect and dignity.”

Mr. Nelson said at the meeting that he did not give the board “an advance reading of this” and it was not on the agenda.

The statement said that at a policy committee meeting in January, Mr. Ouellette made a statement about a district student. During public comment, the student’s mother said that Mr. Ouellette had suggested her son was doing drugs. According to the board motion, Mr. Ouellette made the comments when that committee was discussing a student serving as non-voting member of the board. “There statements were heard by members of the public and were brought to the attention of the student Mr. Ouellette was discussing,” the statement from the board reads.

The student’s mother said that her son was “defamed and was insulted.” The student’s family has asked that Mr. Ouellette resign.

The board discussed the legal issues involved with removing a board member. The board’s attorney, who was at the meeting, said that it was very difficult, saying it was an adversarial process that has to go to the state commissioner of education. Mr. Nelson pointed out that there was a 30-day window to appeal to the commissioner asking for the board members to step down and that period had already elapsed. He also said that it didn’t need to be the board who appealed to the SED saying, “anybody could have filed that appeal.”

“We have all asked our fellow board member to step down,” Mr. Nelson said at meeting.

Mr. Ouellette did not comment at the meeting. Later, in an email, he said he will not comment on a non-agenda item.

Also at the meeting:

• The board heard a budget presentation from Business Manager Michael Brennan. He said the district is “still waiting on final state aid” numbers, which will be released this month, but the district is looking at a $42.7 million budget. The board will continue reviewing the budget before members vote on a proposed spending plan in April. The budget will go to voters on May 19

• The board approved the retirements of Tracey Gold, Terry Petroccione, Jeanne Kruger and Tim O’Brien at the end of this school year. Also approved were the retirements of Maureen Kuhn, Vikki Skarzynski, Christopher Soulia and Linda Wheeler for the end of the 2021 school year

• The board voted to make the Bank of Greene County an official Bank Depository. Board member John Antalek abstained from voting since he is employed by the bank.

The next regular board meeting is Tuesday April 7 at 7 p.m. in the high school library.

To contact reporter Emilia Teasdale

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