By Kathryn G. Menu
The Sag Harbor School Board of Education agreed to transfer $645,000 of its repair reserve fund Tuesday to award a contract of $1.09 million for site repairs, buoying a $7.36 million bond for capital repairs at Sag Harbor Elementary School and Pierson Middle High School.
Voters approved the funding for the capital projects in November 2013.
The transfer was approved after a public hearing that did not draw any members of the public to the podium, but did incite debate among board members, some whom expressed concerns that aspects of the original bond project — including an increase in the number of parking spaces at Pierson — were not included in the list of tasks.
The total $7,357,132 bond proposition will address facilities preservation and renovation, building code compliance, and health and safety issues, energy conservation improvements and other efficiencies. Larger aspects of the project include the reconstruction of the Pierson auditorium, the replacement of windows in both school buildings, an expansion of Pierson’s kitchen, the addition of a storage room, the extension and reconstruction of technology classrooms, masonry reconstruction and roof repairs. Ventilation improvements, the installation of carbon dioxide sensors, and numerous plumbing and electrical upgrades are also planned.
At Pierson, the main entry plaza is also being replaced, and parking areas reconfigured with the elimination of parking spaces that back up onto Jermain Avenue. At the elementary school, the Hampton Street lot will be realigned. Both schools will see improvements in the parking lots meant to improve bus and emergency service access. Drainage improvements are also being funded, as is the replacement of deteriorated walkways and asphalt.
It is not what is being funded — but what is not included — that upset some board members Tuesday night.
Items that are not a part of the original proposition but that the district hoped to construct with leftover funding include five additional parking spaces at Pierson’s Division Street lot, additional sidewalks and curbs along Jermain Avenue, a secondary bus lot entrance and expanded parking area on Division Street, six additional parking spaces in the Hampton Street lot at Sag Harbor Elementary School, a permeable paver drainage system in that lot, concrete sidewalks inside the Hampton Street lot, and a concrete sideway at the Atlantic Street lot.
As a result, at Pierson there will be an overall loss of four parking spaces.
Board members Stephanie Bitis and Sandi Kruel both expressed frustration that plans originally floated to voters were ultimately not what was approved for construction by the state Education Department. Board member Tommy John Schiavoni noted that the plans were changed following a community conversation after the bond vote.
After debate over the importance of green space, safety, and encouraging students to walk and bike to school rather than use cars, in April 2014 the board voted to go with the smallest parking lot reconfiguration for Pierson, adding 10 spaces to the Division Street lot by building parking into tree well space, and adding another space in the Jermain Avenue lot. Current board members Chris Tice and Theresa Samot supported that decision along with then board members Mary Anne Miller, David Diskin and Daniel Hartnett.
Ms. Kruel and Susan Kinsella, the current board president, voted against that proposal, preferring a plan that increased spaces in the Jermain Avenue lot, but reduced green space.
On Tuesday, the board was informed by architect Larry Salvesen of BBS Architects that five additional spaces on Division Street would not be constructed as a part of the project as they are not considered a part of the base bond proposal. Those spaces would cost $22,600 to construct, according to Mr. Salvesen.
Both Ms. Kruel and Ms. Tice said that was not clear when the board was having the parking debate two years ago.
“We are losing spaces — it is insane,” said Ms. Kruel.
Mr. Salvesen noted there is $350,000 in contingency that could be earmarked for some of the “add-on” projects. He said the parking lot reconfiguration will still go a long way towards making busing safer.
“Visibility will be enhanced,” added Ms. Graves. “There is some good you are gaining here.”
“But we are adding cars to the street and that is not good,” said Ms. Kinsella.
“When we capture savings this will go to the top of the list,” said Ms. Graves.
Board members were also frustrated about plans for the auditorium, which includes a lighting booth on the ground level, rather in the balcony where it was originally proposed.
“We have one person that does all the lighting for our shows — it now sounds like we need three,” said Ms. Tice.
“There were other discussions in the design phase that were not vetted or brought to the board and that is what we are experiencing here,” said Ms. Samot.
Mr. Salvesen said minutes from all committee and administration meetings about the bond project were available. He also said he put the lighting board where members of the theater department wanted it situated. Mr. Salvesen presented the board with a design for the auditorium that featured a seascape theme, connected to Sag Harbor’s maritime history. The auditorium will have an additional 74 seats; 59 when removable seats are taken out for the orchestra space.
Board members were divided over the maritime theme, but eventually agreed to ask Mr. Salvesen to add some scarlet and black to the design to bring the school colors into the auditorium.
Ms. Kruel said the lighting board should also be revisited.
“I don’t want the train to leave the station on that one,” she said.