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Norwood-Norfolk officials outline need for capital project


NORFOLK - Norwood-Norfolk Central School voters will be asked next week to approve a $13.5 million capital project that will address building code violations and Americans With Disabilities Act compliance, as well as energy efficiency, replacement of obsolete equipment and general improvement items.

And if it’s voted down, they said they’ll keep their fingers crossed that some pieces of equipment dating back to 1952 - including the district’s boiler system - don’t decide to quit on them.

“We don’t have a capital project (if it’s defeated on June 4),” Superintendent James M. Cruikshank said during a public hearing Tuesday evening. “We open our doors tomorrow and kids will come to school. But we’re taking a risk.”

He said that, during this past brutally cold winter, their furnace wasn’t always cooperative. It was, he said, a case of “I think I can, I think I can.”

“If it goes down, we’re in a situation where it would have to come out of the operational budget, or maybe an emergency capital project,” Mr. Cruikshank said.

Robert Brothers, the district’s facilities director, said it’s not just the furnace that dates back several decades. Piping in their steam heating system is also from 1952, as is an elevator that’s also included in the project. Their current diesel emergency generator is also up in years, Mr. Brothers said, and that would be replaced with efficient natural gas.

“The current generator is 20 years old, and it’s really starting to show its age,” he said.

The project would also improve student bathrooms with new plumbing.

“The bathrooms in the high school are all original plumbing,” which makes it difficult and time-consuming when repairs need to be made, Mr. Brothers said.

The key parts of the project will address code issues and those related to the Americans With Disabilities Act, he said. Among them are stairwells that, in some cases, are out of compliance because they’re more than 50 feet fro the near exist. A hallway that narrows also needs to be corrected because of the problems it could cause in case of an emergency.

“People can get trampled,” he said.

Bleachers in the high school are not handicapped accessible and need to be addressed, according to Mr. Brothers, as does masonry on the exterior of the building.

“There’s quite a bit of water infiltration in different areas,” he said.

The capital project would also allow the district to address energy efficiency. It includes an upgrade to their energy management system that controls everything related to energy use in the building, including lighting and heating.

In the case of the heating system, “you only heat the water to the temperature that you need to heat the building,” saving energy in the process, Mr. Brothers said.

Some lighting fixtures are still using old T12 bulbs, which are no longer being manufactured. He said most of the lights in the project would be replaced by LED lights, which have a life span of 15 years and use a fraction of the energy.

If bids come in within the predicted range, they would also like to address the auditorium’s audiovisual system, lighting, sound, seating and curtains, all of which are antiquated, he said.

“Some have gotten to the point where they’re not working properly,” he said.

The project addresses a number of other needs that are itemized on the district’s website,

Mr. Cruikshank said they need to address the items now in an effort to address what could be future maintenance issues. They would also recoup some of the cost through energy savings that would come from the project.

“Basically it’s a home improvement project for the school,” he said.

He noted that, when home repairs are necessary, owners can save money to address them, borrow money or use a combination of both. In Norwood-Norfolk’s case, they’re using a combination, asking the voters to not only approve the $13.5 million project, but also to allow them to use just over $1 million from their capital reserve fund that had been set aside specifically for projects like this.

“The board (of education) had the foresight a few years ago to set money aside for a capital project. The rest, we’re going to look at borrowing. We have the capital reserve fund to offset that,” Mr. Cruikshank said.

The needs were identified through a building condition survey that was originally focused on energy conservation projects. But, he said, as architects went through the facility, they discovered items that needed to be corrected to meet code or comply with the Americans With Disabilities Act. And without addressing those, he said the state Education Department would not approve the project.

The project 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.

Voters will be able to tour the affected areas at 6 p.m. Thursday to see first-hand why they need to be addressed. The vote will be held from noon to 8 p.m. June 4 in the district board room.

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