Like many in our community, wer have been undecided about the Middle School renovation project. We've always advocated for educational excellence, but condemned bureaucratic waste. Is this the former or the latter, we wondered? As a former school board members, we'd champion genuine student needs. As retirees supported by retirement investments worth much less now than before, we’d oppose frivolous spending.
Clearly some renovation is warranted. School boards have been patching up the building’s many flaws for several decades, trying to extend its use so that other more pressing needs could be met, hoping some other municipality would need and buy our white elephant. The Depression era front building is well built and sturdy; not so the flat roofed, cheaply made, deteriorating, 1960’s classroom addition.
Our concern has been whether the current proposal is a more expensive “fix” than is needed. Upon investigation, we have decided that it is not.
The estimated construction cost of $245 per square foot compares favorably with the $415 per square foot cost of the “green” remodeling of SUNY’s Old Main Building. ($27M for 65,000 sq. ft. per SUNY’s website updated 1/21/10.) School construction is very expensive due to many state construction mandates, most notably NY’s 1912 Wicks Law which raises costs by about 25%.
While increasing available classroom space by about 20%, the project’s energy efficiency will decrease utility costs by 7-8% per year.
Furthermore, Rhinebeck Architecture has a sterling reputation. They have never been late completing a project, nor has any client sued them. In fact, it is the firm New Paltz turned to during its litigation with the Lenape architects.
Our decision to publicly support the project has been spurred by the blatant lies being spread by opponents. The remodeled Middle School WILL NOT COST $100 MILLION, even with all the bond interest paid over time. If opponents must resort to a lie as their main argument against a remodeled Middle School, they must lack better, rational arguments.
The total net future cost will be about $42 million: $49.8M immediate construction cost minus $20M state aid, minus $4M existing NP reserve funds ($25.8M) followed by $26.8M long term bond interest minus $10.7M state bond aid ($16.1M) = $41.9M. NY law forbids cost overruns on bonded school projects.
We have noted that many current opponents were also vocal twenty years ago in their objection to building Lenape School. Student population estimates were all wrong, they cried with authority; Lenape would be an unnecessary “ghost school” because there’d be no students to fill it.
They were wrong then. They are wrong now.
Barbara Carroll & Sally Rhoads