Herricks ed board to schedule capital bond vote

The Herricks school board will likely vote Oct. 6 to set a Dec. 6 bond referendum on $29.5 million worth of building projects across the district’s seven buildings, the district announced Wednesday.

Construction on a new athletic field at Herricks High School could start as early as next summer if residents vote to fund the work with $25 million in borrowing and $3.3 million in capital reserve spending, district officials told about 90 residents, students and staff at the high school Tuesday night.

“Just as you want to take care of your home, it’s important that we take care of our schools and we continue those upgrades,” district Superintendent Fino Celano said.

The plan also includes renovations to the high school’s cafeteria and one of its science labs, as well as a new fitness center and power generator in an effort to modernize the 58-year-old building.

About 60 percent of the work is “health and safety” upgrades at all five schools, Shelter Rock Academy and the Herricks Community Center, Celano said.

They include new asphalt, sidewalks, doors and locks, renovations to select bathrooms, ventilation improvements, and electrical and plumbing fixes.

While some thought it could use some additions, residents and students told district officials Tuesday that the plan is a much-needed investment.

“I consider this my hometown, and it’s very important to me that this get done,” said a resident, Kevin Dowd.

The bond would replace existing debt that will expire in the 2021-22 school year, meaning it would not raise residents’ property taxes, said Lisa Rutkoske, the assistant superintendent for business.

Residents would have to vote on another capital reserve expenditure once the district puts more money away after the December vote, Celano and Rutkoske said.

The timeline for the work is tentative, but workers would likely start building the new athletic field, fixing walls and replacing doors and hardware in the summer of 2017, Rutkoske said.

A new press box, bathroom, bleachers and lights for the track would follow in 2018, she said, as would the cafeteria renovation and electrical and ventilation upgrades.

Science lab renovations, new windows and upgrades to bathrooms to make them handicap-accessible would come in 2019, along with other fixes, Rutkoske said. The rest of the work, including construction of the fitness center, would happen between 2020 and 2023, she said.

The projects are the highest priorites on an $80 million list of fixes identified in a building survey last year, Celano said. 

The plan addresses many long-standing needs at the high school, such as bathroom doors not locking properly and the cafeteria getting too hot in warmer months, said Samantha Aloysius, a high school senior and vice president of the Herricks Student Government.

The crowd sitting in the cafeteria Tuesday applauded when architect Roger Walsh said it would get air conditioning.

“Everything’s pertinent to what we need right now,” Aloysius said.

The district plans to get more feedback from residents before finalizing designs for the work after the bond vote, Walsh said.

Some other students and parents asked that the plan include more cool air for the high school, which Celano said is only about 50 percent air-conditioned.

The district plans to pay for more air conditioning there with its future budgets, Celano said. The district’s three elementary schools have air conditioning throughout the buildings, and the middle school is between 80 and 90 percent air-conditioned, he said.

By Noah Manskar

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The Island Now

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