Weekly Feature



2018-08-09 / Front Page

Resolution moves capital improvement planning forward

by JENNIFER WATERS
Editor

Facing a massive capital improvement project involving all 10 of the West Seneca Central School District’s educational buildings, the Board of Education chose to step forward with the planning process on Monday night.

(See editorial on page four)

During the meeting, the board adopted a resolution stating that it intends to reimburse expenditures for costs associated with a planned capital improvement project.

The district has been in the process of planning for a significant — as much as $75.5 million — capital improvement project that is anticipated to consist of renovations and upgrades to the district’s buildings and facilities.

The resolution allows the board to reimburse the general fund to cover costs advanced from the fund to pay for initial costs associated with the planning and structuring of the project.

When planning first began, the board outlined goals to address health, safety and welfare, facilities and infrastructure, building utilities, educational space improvements, site improvements and site athletics.

Christina Weber with Young + Wright Architectural said the scope is spread evenly throughout the district’s 10 buildings.

Security concerns; building shell improvements including roofs, masonry and windows; expanding program space; upgrading educational space to integrate technology; pavement in parking lots and sidewalks; and safety issues with the athletic fields are among areas noted by the public, staff and students in previous planning meetings, Wright said.

“We want to make sure the students are safe and that everything is accessible to all students,” Weber said.

Each building will have a secure entrance with new door hardware, and all toilet rooms and stages will meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements.

Roofs and skylights will be restored, along with exterior doors and windows — anything to keep the weather out, Weber said.

Science and art classrooms will be upgraded to meet advancing educational requirements, and the music rooms will be expanded to allow for proper instrument storage and rehearsal space.

“A lot of the gymnasiums just need a little upgrade. Safety wall pads, new gym floors, removing the folding partition, which could be a safety concern, and replacing with a roll-down curtain, and either removing or upgrading bleachers,” she said.

Building utility upgrades — what few people see but what allows the buildings to function — will address clock and public address systems, exterior lighting, drinking fountains with bottle fillers, heating and ventilation, plumbing fixtures and information technology upgrades. Cracked sidewalks, asphalt paving, stairs and ramps complete the list.

“The more fun stuff — site athletics — we’re looking at a new track, turf fields and bleachers at both high schools. Due to the safety concern at West Senior’s tennis courts, those are also on the list,” Weber said.

She added that the concessions at West Senior are also on the list due to issues with toilets leaking.

“We’ve gotten to a point now where the district feels they’re honing in on a scope of the project they feel comfortable with, from both a scope standpoint and a budget standpoint,” Wright said.

Next, the board will enter the State Environmental Quality Review Act process, which Wright said will take some time due to the size of the project.

The district plans to present to district voters, at a special meeting that is anticipated to be held in December, the question of adoption of a proposition authorizing the project.

Items being looked at for the capital project may not be scheduled for start until 2025 or later, according to District Treasurer Brian Schulz. He said the reason the board is looking at six-year and long-term plans is because of the delay in state approval for aid.

“We want to have an appropriate amount of time to plan and facilitate the state approval over a period of time. That’s why we’re looking at $75.5 million in one chunk,” Schulz said. “We have well over $150 million worth of work that could be done.”

Schulz said the district will need to complete building condition work before the state will approve “nicer” projects such as improving classrooms and athletic fields. The project is 76.5 percent aidable.

“We haven’t done a project since 2003,” Schulz said, adding that a small project was completed in 2005. “We will literally be out almost 15 years before we put a shovel in the ground.”

Wright added that the state Department of Education is currently at 42 to 48 weeks for project review.

“At present time, we spend a little over $6 million a year in debt service,” Schulz said. “These payments reduce from now to 2027-28, significantly. With the way we’re phasing this project, we will stay within that $6 million. As the payment goes down, we will be putting in new payments for new borrowings.”

According to Schulz, the local share of cost is estimated to be $1.94 million from the remaining 23.6 percent of the project that does not qualify for aid.

The presentation by Wright and Weber will be posted to the district’s Web page, wsc schools.org, for the public to view the project in detail.

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