by Mike Townshend
With New Paltz Middle School's roof partially crumbling under the weight of rain damage and snow, the school board approved a $50,000 emergency repair last week. Water had been leaking from the ceiling in certain parts of the building, and eventually "part of the auditorium ceiling had collapsed," according to Stephen Callahan, facilities manager for the schools.
The collapsed snow guards on the old roof were the source of the problem. The middle school's roof has recessed gutters. The snow guards at the school are a strip or strips of copper - nowadays, stainless steel is the metal of choice - that hold snow back so it doesn't rush into and overtax the drains. "They're bent flat against the roof and they serve no function now," the facilities manager explained.
A number of drains along that section of the roof had also failed, leading to the collapse.
The $50,000 price tag pushed the repair onto the January 6 agenda, school board president David Dukler said.
According to Callahan, this part of the roof is just one of six parts in dire need of repair. The other five sections of roof could fail in the near future.
At first the school board wasn't convinced that it should address the problem immediately. "There is some possibility that this roof is going to be demolished," school board vice president Don Kerr said. "I don't want to spend all this money if it is just going to be demolished,"
Trustee Steven Greenfield called the roof one of the contributing elements leading up to the renovation of the middle school. "Where do we go with that roof if the public chooses not to replace the building?" he asked. Voters will decide February 9 on a bond for the proposed $50-million comprehensive renovation project.
Moisture and mold would become a big concern if the roof isn't fixed right now. The architects in charge of the renovation project, Rhinebeck Architecture & Planning, gave the school board a strong suggestion that the roof be fixed immediately.
New materials used to fix the building will likely be disassembled and reused if the renovation bond is supported by voters, Callahan said.
School board members voted to pass the measure, which allows the district to spend up to $50,000 to fix the roof. Potentially, the repair costs could be lower than that fully authorized amount.