BETHLEHEM The Bethlehem Central school board is asking the public to weigh in on borrowing the needed funds for district-wide facilities upgrades.
According to a five-year plan developed by the district in 2011, about $9.1 million of upgrades are suggested over 10 years to fix the infrastructure of buildings, upgrade water and lighting fixtures and replace aging equipment. About another $4 million would be needed to make expansive athletic facilities improvements and I.T. system upgrades.
“We have educational needs and infrastructure needs that have been deferred for far too long,” said Superintendent Thomas Douglas. “Even with the previous bond issues (in 2003), it still wasn’t covering the constant deferment of repairs.”
BC Operations and Maintenance Director Gregg Nolte said the main concern is protecting the structural integrity of each of the district’s 11 facilities and 22 out-buildings and ensuring the health and safety of students and staff.
The department has identified repairs needed to the roofs at Slingerlands and Glenmont Elementary Schools, as well as the high school, with façade and masonry repairs needed at the middle school. Nolte estimates $20,000 a year is spent on patching the roofs.
“If we don’t ever want to come to another $93 million bond again, we need to have some type of plan so that when equipment begins to fail or infrastructure starts to exceed its expected life, we can go in and replace and not do it on an emergency basis,” said Nolte.
District officials said the previous bond has been paid off and all of the money was used to upgrade the district’s facilities to allow for growing enrollment numbers. With the expansions completed, other upgrade projects that have been put off for years need to be addressed.
Douglas said the growing number of facilities deferments across the state due to budget constraints led the Education Department several years ago to institute condition surveys for districts. “It is one of the mandates the state put into place that is a very good educational mandate for planning purposes,” he said.