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Norwood-Norfolk sets capital project hearing, building tour dates

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NORFOLK - Norwood-Norfolk Central School officials will detail their proposed $13.5 million capital project during a public hearing at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday in the district’s board room.

They’re also giving interested residents an opportunity at 6 p.m. Thursday to tour the areas where the proposed work will be done.

Superintendent James M. Cruikshank said the original intent of the capital project was to address deficiencies in the district’s antiquated heating, lighting and electrical systems.

“Even the plumbing. When you go to change a toilet out, when pipes are original vintage, it’s difficult. It turns a half-hour project into a day-long project,” he said.

They hired William Taylor Architects, Syracuse, who visited the district and completed a walk-through of the buildings, and that led to more items needing to be added to the project.

“They found a number of items that were not up to building code. If we wanted to submit plans to the state for other items, we had to address the building code issues or the state wouldn’t approve the plan,” Mr. Cruikshank said.

For example, he said, hallways where students exit for fire drills shrink from 8 feet wide to 5 feet.

“We can’t do that,” he said.

There are also stairwells that are more than 50 feet from an exit, another code violation, according to the superintendent.

The project will address those code violations, as well as make areas such as the high school gymnasium bleachers compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

“How the building code violations came to be, I have my opinion. But it doesn’t matter. They’re here, and we have to address them,” Mr. Cruikshank said.

Among the other pieces of work that will be done are an addition to the bus maintenance and delivery area; elevator upgrades; masonry repair around the exterior of the building; repair of the elementary school boiler room air handling; installation of CO2 sensors in large group areas; asbestos abatement; and replacement of some exterior doors and windows.

“We’ll be replacing windows and doors that don’t work, are broke or aren’t efficient,” he said.

They also want to replace an old steam heating system that’s more than 50 years old; replace the elementary summer boiler; replace the high school kitchen recovery air unit; replace the high school library rooftop unit; replace the high school and middle school roof exhaust fans; replace elementary unit ventilators; and replace high school auditorium and gym units.

Other work would include the replacement of the high school kitchen hood system; replacement of the high school ventilation system; upgrade of the energy management system; replacement of high school unit ventilators; replacement of bus garage exhaust fans; upgrading of lighting, the public address system, Internet and power access; track resurfacing and soccer field renovations; and replacement of the emergency generator with efficient natural gas.

“We need to improve our efficiencies. We’re using fixtures and light bulbs that aren’t energy-efficient. Switching out could save us money and bring immediate savings,” Mr. Cruikshank said.

They also need to resurface their track now or they could face problems in the future, he said.

“If we don’t, in a year or two we’re going to need to replace it,” he said.

The project would also improve student bathrooms with new plumbing; construct a connector between the second floor and mechanical room; replace flooring in various areas of the school; renovate and insulate the music practice areas; install a loading dock lift table; upgrade auditorium audiovisual, lighting, sound, seating and curtains; relocate the fuel island canopy; upgrade the firm alarms system; and make improvements to the parking lot.

Their first priority with the project will be addressing building codes and ADA compliance issues. The second priority will be items that were initially entered into the project, such as heating, lighting and energy management. The final priority will be “general repairs that need to be done, that need to be addressed,” such as the masonry and parking lot.

“We do have some concerns about parking. We’re not sure what configuration we’re looking at yet. Every time we have an event parking is atrocious. When we’re forcing people to park on Route 56, that’s dangerous. We had a letter from the Norfolk committee of fire commissioners stating we need to address that,” Mr. Cruikshank said.

Mr. Cruikshank said that, although the project cost is about $13.5 million, they have about $1 million they can use from a reserve fund that’s dedicated solely to capital project work. That means the project would go out to voters at $12.5 million.

It carries a state aid ratio of 96.4 percent, which means the district would receive just over 96 cents back for every dollar spent on the project.

That funding is separate from the school’s regular operating budget, Mr. Cruikshank stressed.

“It’s a fund the state has and you can draw from it. This is what the state does so districts can maintain a healthy facility,” he said.

The local share for the project would be about $9,500, but Mr. Cruikshank said their engineers have estimated they could see an initial savings of about $27,000 a year in energy costs with the work that will be done.

“Even with their conservative estimates, if we take just half of those conservative estimates, we’re still farther ahead in this project,” he said.

He will explain the need for the project during Tuesday’s public hearing, and residents are invited to tour the facilities at 6 p.m. Thursday so they can see first-hand what issues the district is facing.

“We have our facilities director and maintenance people willing to take anybody around to see what we’re talking about if they want to get a first-hand look. We’ll show where the building code issues are. They can make their own determination whether they feel it’s necessary and vote yes or no. They need to make an informed decision. Hopefully the community will take advantage of the tours,” he said.

“We want to be a community center here. We depend on the community support. This last budget vote proved the community truly does support its school system and we’re thankful for that” he said.

Because Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has hinted that the aid ratio formula may change down the road, Mr. Cruikshank said the timing is right for the project.

“We need to get it done now. We need to take advantage of every opportunity to reduce and manage costs,” he said.

The vote will be held from noon to 8 p.m. June 4 in the district board room.

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