$1.6 million bond could be tab for school repairs

JULIE LANE PHOTO | Student Elizabeth Dunning offered the Board of Education a look at the Intel science project at Monday night’s meeting.

Student Elizabeth Dunning offered the Board of Education a look at the Intel science project at Monday night’s meeting.

It looks like the Shelter Island Board of Education will be asking voters to support a $1.6 million building bond in the fall.But the good news, revealed by Superintentendent Michael Hynes at Monday night’s Board of Education meeting, is that about half of that figure could be back in the school district’s coffers over the 18-year life of a performance contract, if what’s being considered is adopted. Part of the project relating to energy costs would be guaranteed to return as much in savings over the life of the contract as the cost of the work.

The critical need for the school is a new heating  and air conditioning system to replace the one that failed last October. To provide heat, it became necessary for building and grounds crew members Mike Dunning and Greg Sulahian to spell one another every hour in order to manually keep the system running.

They did so for two months until a $55,000 investment in new controls was installed, allowing them to operate the system remotely by computer. The overtime labor and added fuel oil costs resulted in large bills for the district.

A full presentation from both Johnson Controls, an energy performance contractor, and McClave Engineering, a firm that has worked on the most recent upgrades to the school, will take place at the June 16 BOE meeting. But it now appears that both Johnson Controls and McClave Engineering — two companies that have worked together in the past — would be involved in different aspects of the overall project.

Johnson Controls would be tackling work that involves heating and air conditioning, new boilers, lighting, weather stripping and window films. There are also plans for solar panels to be placed over six roof areas, further reducing the district’s energy costs.

The company would provide a guarantee to the district that over the 18-year life of the contract, the entire cost of the work would be offset by energy savings.

McClave would take on work such as brick repointing. The need for the brick work is essential, not just because material and labor costs rise the longer it’s delayed, but because freezing winter temperatures further damaged the building, requiring more extensive work, BOE member Linda Eklund said.

With a nine-month approval period anticipated from the State Education Department for capital projects,Dr. Hynes said he’d like the BOE to vote in June or July to calling for a bond vote.

“Let’s do the right thing now,” he said.

BOE member Thomas Graffagnino noted that it’s important when taxpayers consider the bond issue that they understand that the Building and Grounds Committee has knowledgeable community representatives, including Police Chief Jim Read, FIT Center director Garth Griffin and Doug Matz, a Shelter Island resident and chairman of the Zoning Board of Appeals, who is in the business of installing and servicing heating and air conditioning systems. Such members make sure work is done right and at a reasonable cost, he said.

Women in science
Students Emily Hyatt and Elizabeth Dunning and their teacher, Dan Williams, shared with the board some of the work they have been doing in the Intel science program.

Watching the excitement students experience as they undertake experiments is “an absolute joy,” Mr. Williams told the board.

It’s not unusual for results to be different than what students expected when they first embarked on a project, he said, explaining that’s the nature of science.

At the same time, he admitted that he and the students are “flying blind” because they lack the equipment that would tell them not only that an experiment didn’t work, but providing information on why it failed.

Equipment he wants is a “nano drop spectrophotometer.” The price tag for the unit is $10,000 and is not typically found in high school laboratories.

Nonetheless, because of Mr. Williams’ programs and  his ties to Brookhaven National Laboratory, there are neighboring schools that look to Shelter Island for help in carrying out sophisticated experiments. That would only increase if the school could afford the nano drop spectrophotometer, he said.

Dr. Hynes said he’s eager to have Shelter Island become that science center for other districts to look to with their own experiments. While grant money can be obtained for certain programs, it’s not generally available for equipment, Mr. Williams said.

In other business, the Board:
• Approved a field trip for seventh graders aboard the Schooner Alabama from June 9 through 12. The cost to each student is $250, with the Lions Club helping to pay that cost for a student who lacked the funds. Other money to defray the cost of the trip comes from the Shelter Island Educational Foundation.
• Appointed Kathleen Renault as a substitute school nurse at a salary of $110 per day. The appointment is pending clearance by the New York State Education Department that requires all school employees to be fingerprinted.