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Few people show for PCS public hearing

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POTSDAM - Eight members of the public showed up for a public hearing where Potsdam Central School District Superintendent Patrick H. Brady gave a presentation outlining the district’s proposed $18 million building renovation project.

From time to time we need to look at upgrades,” Mr. Brady said, adding much of the project was focused on making the district’s building’s more energy efficient.

“We have heaters from the 1960s and roofs that are more than 20 years old,” he said from the high school library, where the meeting was held. “This part of the building was built in 1929, and our steam heating system is from that vintage.”

He also noted the district’s kitchens have coolers that are more than 50 years old, including one made of wood that dates back to the 1950s.

“This project is about an investment in the future,” he said. “If we do a project, it needs to be an investment and we need to get a return.”

That return, Mr. Brady said, will come in the form of $775,000 in savings over the project’s 15-year financing period.

Project Architect Stephen J. Klempa of SEI Design said nearly each part of the project will result in at least some energy savings.

“We’re not just replacing roofing, we’re adding insulation,” he said, adding new roofing at the high school will reduce heating bills by 8 percent and at the middle school, where only a small section is being replaced, by 4 percent. The savings at the elementary school are even greater, as Mr. Klempa estimated the new roof will reduce its heating bills by 10 percent.

The conversion of steam heating to hot water heating at the high school is expected to cut the building’s bills by 16 percent and the new windows and siding to be installed there are expected to reduce energy costs by another 8 percent.

Mr. Klempa said new lighting fixtures installed across the district are also expected to save the district money, with an 8 percent reduction in electricity costs anticipated.

Engineer Eric J. Sheffer of Engineered Solution, Clifton Park, added in addition to energy savings the district is also slated to receive a grant from NYSERDA to help pay for project.

“We anticipate $75,000 in grants, minimum, that will be put toward the local share,” he said, adding another $75,000 grant is also possible.

Referring to the $775,000 in savings the district is anticipating, Mr. Sheffer said, “That’s a very conservative estimate.”

Mr. Sheffer said while he and Mr. Klempa are predicting savings of about $47,000 per year, the savings could ultimately reach the $50,000 to $55,000 a year range.

Although the project carries an $18 million price tag, Mr. Brady said the project will not lead to any tax increases for the district’s taxpayers, as it’s being paid for through $885,000 in capital reserves, $1,617,000 in expiring debt and $15,498,000 in state aid thanks to their 86 percent building aid ratio, money they only receive if the proposed work is done as part of a capital project.

“If we don’t go out with a project and get state aid, which is 86 percent, and have to do some of this work as emergency work and not get state aid, that money would have to come from somewhere.”

Mr. Brady also added there is no guarantee the district will keep its 86 percent state building aid ratio, as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has talked in recent months about altering the building aid formula.

“That could change and create greater local share for our taxpayers, so now is a great time to get a project in the queue.”

With the district facing a $1.5 million budget gap, Mr. Brady said he wanted to make sure people understood that the unexpired debt is not money that the district could use to help solve its budget woes.

“Any capital debt that is taken off is subtracted from the tax cap,” Mr. Brady said. “That’s the way the tax cap law works. Any money taken off wouldn’t be money that we could use anyway, unless we went over the tax cap.”

Business Manager Laura Hart echoed that point, “Our deficit will not be affected by this project.”

When it came time for members of the public to speak, Dick Hollister said he wanted to make sure the project included no plans for a health clinic, noting that the board was presented with information on a clinic at a board meeting this summer.

Such use, he said, would not be of educational benefit to the students.

“Just because information was handed out doesn’t mean the board acted on it or even considered it,” replied Wade A. Davis, who chairs the district’s buildings and grounds committee.

The project includes $3.1 million in work at the elementary school, $3 million at the middle school and $10.6 million in work at the high school.

Work at Lawrence Avenue Elementary includes roof replacement, interior lighting replacement, replacement of food service equipment, new carpeting in the main office and second grade wing, and repairs to the ceiling by the gym.

At AA Kingston Middle School interior lighting replacement, electrical distribution upgrades, reconstruction of the back parking lot and repairs to the sidewalk and loading dock, replacement of food service equipment, replacement of four exterior doors and new roofing on small section of the building are all planned.

At the high school, siding and window replacements on the 1929 wing, roof replacement, heating distribution system replacement, auditorium renovations, interior lighting replacement and exterior door replacements are all slated to be done.

Should voters approve the project, Mr. Brady said the work would be completed over a two year period starting in 2014.

Polls will be open on from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. Dec. 12.

“We ask that people come out on 12-12-12 and vote,” Mr. Brady said.

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