New Stella Maris School Projected for Completion in July 2019

The former Stella Maris Regional School as it appeared in June 2017.

The anticipated opening of the former Stella Maris Regional School as an early childhood education center operated by the Sag Harbor School District has been pushed back again, from January to July of 2019, according to the Sag Harbor School District’s architects from BCK-IBI Group, who made a presentation on the project on Monday.

When BCK-IBI Group first came on board in early 2017, its architects projected breaking ground in April of 2018 and completing construction by August of 2018. That timeline was later updated to a January 2019 opening, which was officially postponed again on Monday.

On Monday, about 33 weeks after it was submitted, Bill Sands and Ed Bernhauer of the BCK-IBI Group said in a conference call during Monday’s school board meeting that the Stella Maris engineering plan had finally been reviewed by the New York State Education Department (NYSED) and that they had received “comments” from the state. The architects said responses to those comments will be incorporated as the Stella Maris project undergoes a concurrent architectural review, which NYSED’s website says takes four to six weeks.

“We anticipate this review will be tied up by the end of the month. However, we’ve already been proven wrong by [NYSED] a couple of times. That is the critical milestone for us,” the architects said.

In March 2017, the New York State Education Department (NYSED) was taking an average of 27 to 29 weeks for engineering reviews of school capital projects. According to the NYSED website, the Stella Maris project was submitted for review on February 20, 2018.

The school board on Monday also examined the project’s financial aspects, concluding that while it is already projected to come in over budget, the district has enough resources to handle the costs — but won’t know for sure until bidding takes place and the results are tallied.

According to Mr. Sands, “In order to complete the vision of bringing the educational center online, the total cost conservatively was estimated at $8.3 million.” That includes, he said, the original $5.5-million bond for renovations together with a 25-percent contingency of $1.4 million, plus an additional $1.4 million that the school district would have to come up with to complete the project.

Of that additional $1.4 million, the architects said, about $999,000 has already been spent on smaller, preparation-type construction projects at Stella Maris that will enable the larger project to go more smoothly.

Dr. Philip Kenter, school business administrator, explained that money came from surplus funds left over from the 2017-18 school operating budget.

“Due to cost containment, we were able to capture savings … and do some things now while we wait for our permit,” he said.

Those projects, the architects explained, included asbestos abatement, interior flooring replacement, ordering of new playground equipment and some general demolition work. They will also likely be able to proceed with a new, upgraded roof, the architects said, using state-approved contractors at a price lower than originally projected.

But the architects said they do not expect the delays to lead to inflated costs. Indeed, in neighboring Bridgehampton, a similar fall bidding process led to lower construction costs than two previous rounds of proposals from contractors had sought during the summer months.

“We’re bidding in a much more aggressive climate,” Mr. Sands said. “In the summer, we were concerned contractors would be busy and we may get higher costs. Now, we feel not only do we think there will not be an increase, but there may be some savings there.”