By Christine Sampson
If all goes as planned for the Bridgehampton School District, construction crews could break ground on the school’s new addition in March of 2018, wrap it up by June of 2019, and finish the interior renovations and expanded parking lot by the end of the summer in 2019.
A lot has to happen before then, including approval of the plans by the New York State Education Department. That is the timeline proposed by Bridgehampton School architect John A. Grillo, who met with the school board Tuesday to outline the next steps following the community’s December 13 approval of a $24.7 million bond for the first major expansion and renovation of the 1930 school building.
Mr. Grillo said soil testing, utility mark-outs, and field measurements have already taken place.
“Now we’re going to really start the design phase and put structure together, with the overall plan to get this up to the state by the beginning of June,” he said. At one point, he said, NYSED was taking around 38 weeks or longer to approve school districts’ building projects. According to the NYSED Facilities Planning website, the architectural approval process currently stands at 20 to 22 weeks.
“Over the next week or two, at the latest, we’ll start to meet with all of the teachers and end users in all of the spaces: The science folks, the music folks, the cafeteria and kitchen people, et cetera,” Mr. Grillo continued. “We’ve seen preliminary plans and layouts . . . now we want to see what’s going to go into each space.”
School board member Jeff Mansfield asked Mr. Grillo if there have been any unpleasant surprises thus far. Mr. Grillo said “no.”
There was a general agreement among the school board that Mr. Grillo should pursue design features that would qualify the school district for “Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design” certification, commonly known as LEED, from the U.S. Green Building Council. LEED design elements include things like bicycle racks, rainwater management systems, renewable energy sources, use of sustainably sourced building materials, and other initiatives aimed at significantly reducing the carbon footprint of a building and its grounds.
The school board was less decisive, however, on whether the district should pursue an underground geothermal heating and cooling system. It would cost between $500,000 and $600,000, and would likely mean the district would have to tap into reserve funds to pay for it – requiring additional voter approval. The geothermal system would eventually yield rebates of around $300,000 from utility companies, in addition to long-term savings on fuel costs. It would also mean an air-conditioned building that could be more widely used in the summer.
“One of the catch phrases is ‘fossil fuels.’ If we’re avoiding that, it seems like a good deal,” board member Doug DeGroot said. He requested more detailed geothermal pricing from Mr. Grillo.
“One of my concerns is . . . I didn’t want it to take away from something else. I’d rather have what we really need and not have geothermal,” board vice president Lillian Tyree-Johnson said. “But if we can access the reserves for this purpose, then I would be more inclined. I do think there are times in the summer that we would want to have more programs if we had an air-conditioned space.”
The $24.7 million approved by the community in a 167-to-135 vote last month is expected to cover not just the design and hard construction costs, but also provide new desks and chairs for the classrooms, lockers for the new wing, and kitchen and cafeteria equipment. It does not, however, include science lab equipment – which is “not something you’d put into a bond referendum,” Mr. Grillo said – nor does it include equipment for the new fitness room.
“There is contingency in the overall project to buy that . . . or we could do it through donations or private funds or booster clubs,” he said.
On Wednesday, school board president Ronnie White said he is looking forward to the projected March 2018 groundbreaking, which he said is a reasonable expectation based on the district’s planning process thus far.
“I was very pleased with what we heard Tuesday,” Mr. White said. “Mr. Grillo is a very detailed guy. . . . He is very informative, very transparent, and very patient and thorough. I was very comfortable with what he delivered.”