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District is set to begin projects

Upgrades will impact summer field, playground use in Bethlehem

— With summer vacation just weeks away, district officials at Bethlehem Central schools are preparing for upgrade projects to begin as part of the 2012-13 bond initiative.

Seven contracts were awarded by the Bethlehem Central Board of Education in June as part of the facilities improvement projects. The contracts, worth $16.6 million, will allow for improvements to get under way. The majority of the bond included money for upgrades to district buildings.

“I really hope the public will have some patience with us over the next year and a half to two years,” said Superintendent Tom Douglas. “There will unfortunately be some inconveniences, as with any major remodeling.”

In March of 2013, the majority of voters approved a $20.2 million facilities proposition as the district was already a year behind its five-year maintenance plan due to lack of funds and staff cutbacks. Upgrades were suggested to fix the infrastructure of buildings, upgrade water and lighting fixtures, replace aging equipment and upgrade outdated technology systems.

Voters did not approve funding for the installation of a $3.8 million artificial turf athletic field, which included a regulation-size track, improvements to spectator seating and press box and a new score board.

According to District Business Officer Judi Kehoe, the district anticipates that it will receive aid on 95 percent of the cost of the project. The state then applies a building aid ratio to that total to determine the amount of aid the district will receive.

“For Bethlehem, the aid ratio is approximately 70 percent,” said Kehoe. “Building aid from the state is paid over the life of a project, not in a lump sum. This corresponds to the repayment term on the bonds issued to finance the project and helps lessen the local tax burden over that same period.”

Douglas said students will not be disturbed during the final two weeks of the school year because inside work will begin during vacation.

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