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NNCS $13.5 million capital project passes handily

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NORFOLK - A $13.5 million capital project at Norwood-Norfolk Central School passed handily Wednesday night, by a 131-22 margin.

“It looks like about 86 percent (approval),” Superintendent James M. Cruikshank.

District officials stressed the need for the project through a number of avenues, including a capital project newsletter, information on their website, news articles, a public hearing and a building tour so voters could see the areas that needed to be addressed.

“It’s not just necessary. It’s important in this time of limited resources that we consider every resource we have,” Mr. Cruikshank said.

The project’s top priority will be to address building code violations and Americans With Disabilities Act compliance. That includes asbestos abatement, elevator upgrades, an air handler in the elementary boiler room, CO2 sensors in large gathering areas, masonry repairs, addition to the bus maintenance area, code corrections in various stairwells and replacement of the high school gym bleachers.

The second priority addresses energy efficiency projects that will save the district money. That includes replacement of some windows and doors, as well as the antiquated steam heating system and various air handlers and exhaust and ventilators. There will also be an upgrade to the lighting and electrical, technology network and VOIP, and resurfacing of the track.

“What you do at your home is what we have to do here,” he said.

As part of the project, district officials are predicting energy savings through a number of initiatives, including the replacement of some exterior doors and windows, replacement of a steam heating system that’s more than 50 years old, replacement of an emergency generator with efficient natural gas and an upgrading of the energy management system to give district officials more control over energy usage.

They’re estimating that, by addressing their energy consumption through the project, they will see an estimated net savings in utilities of $405,000 for 15 years.

“We’ll save money. I think the public understands that,” Mr. Cruikshank said.

The final list of priority items calls for the replacement of obsolete plumbing, flooring and stage curtains, improvement of the sound & lighting system in the auditorium, sound proofing in the music rooms, installation of a loading dock life table, upgrading of auditorium seating, an improved fire alarm system, replacement of the emergency generator and improvements to the parking areas.

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.

While the project cost is $13.5 million, they are using more than $1 million from their capital reserve fund. The district has an aid rate of 96.4 percent for capital projects, meaning they’ll receive more than 96 cents back on every dollar spent.

Now that voters have approved the project, Mr. Cruikshank said their next step is to get with their architectural firm, William Taylor and Associates, to begin the planning phase of the project.

That plan will be submitted to the state Education Department for approval, a process that Mr. Cruikshank said currently takes about six months. However, he said, like many other districts they may submit their plans in two phases so they can get the high-priority items approved first. Otherwise, he said, it could conceivably take the full six months for SED review and approval.

“Most try to do it in phases,”he said. “We have to receive state ed’s approval before we can open it to contractors.”

Their intent is to have shovels in the ground to start the project by the summer of 2015, Mr. Cruikshank said.

“It’s a very tight time frame for state ed approval and architect drawings,” he said.

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