A generator failure at Saranac Central School prompted emergency action by the school board and left afterschool programs in the dark in October, prompting further discussion about replacing the district’s aging infrastructure.
The Saranac Central School District is asking voters to approve a capital improvement plan that district officials say will have no impact on the tax levy.
The project is aimed at making severely needed safety and heating system upgrades as well as making the district’s buildings more energy efficient, according to school officials. The upgrades will be funded through a $583,878 EXCEL grant — money made available to all public school districts in New York state to be used for energy, health, and safety improvements — combined with state building aid.
Superintendent Kenneth O. Cringle said upgrading the systems is a growing concern. System failures, such as the Saranac Elementary boiler last year and the Saranac Middle/High School generator failure in October, show the longer the district waits to upgrade the more money it is costing the district.
Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds James Giroux said the outdated systems have put a strain on his annual budget and because of the age of the systems he is sometimes unable to find replacement parts for the equipment.
“I strive to create a quality learning environment, we are here to serve the students and we strive to do that but sometimes it feels like we physically can't control the space because the machinery is so old,” Giroux said.
District voters rejected a $17.5 million capital improvement plan in February 2010 that would have cost taxpayers about $100,000 annually for 15 years. The original plan included a 3,000-square-foot addition to the elementary school as well as technology upgrades.
“One of the reasons that we brought up the original referendum, is we do have some aging systems that we need,” Cringle said. “In consideration for the economy we are recommending only energy and safety items, no other items. The other project involved technology, even though we could use an upgrade we are holding off until the economy turns around.”
The project includes improvements at all school district buildings including Saranac Middle/High School; Saranac Elementary School; Morrisonville Elementary School; the bus garage; maintenance facility, and district-wide improvements to replace outdated telephone systems. Installing handicapped-accessible push button doors at all facilities is another part of the project.
The three campuses will also get new energy-efficient windows and door replacements, will have fire alarm devices replaced and updated system programming installed.
Major project renovations call for a heating system replacement for the elementary school, water filtration and domestic pipe replacement at the middle/high school, and roof reconstruction at the bus garage.
Public informational meetings on the plan have been scheduled prior to a vote scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 13. The first was held Nov. 15; the second will be held Tuesday, Dec. 6, at Saranac Middle School. The informational meetings will feature a presentation by SEI Design, an architectural, planning and consulting firm.
Cringle said private presentations can be arranged for any resident who is unable to make either meetings.
The school board is also inviting all members of the community to tour the school facilities before the day of the vote. Cringle said he hopes that by showing the community the needs of the school district with informational pamphlets mailed out to residents, holding informative meetings and bringing the community in to see the facilities, the community will see how important the system upgrades are.
“I hope the community will see this is a much needed project because of its limited scope on energy, health and safety items,” he said.
The Dec. 13 vote will be held from noon until 8 p.m. at Saranac Middle School.