Reporter Editorial: Vote yes on the school bond

JO ANN KIRKLAND PHOTO | Shelter Island School
Shelter Island School

It has been almost a year since Shelter Island School’s antiquated heating and air conditioning system broke down, forcing emergency measures by maintenance workers to keep the building functioning.

New controls have been added to the system, enabling employees to make adjustments via computer instead of having to spell one another around the clock.

But that is merely a finger-in-the-dike measure for now.

Administrators and Board of Education members have examined a range of options to deal with the problem, finally coming up with a two-pronged plan that not only promises to have McClave Engineering upgrade and replace the broken heating system, but Johnson Controls would undertake other energy saving work on a performance contract. Such a contract guarantees the district would save more money than it spends to do the work involved.

The school is living on borrowed time. The patched up heating system somehow made it through last winter and now must make it through another winter before work can start. The delays resulted initially from a Board of Education that needed time to examine alternatives before committing to spending money.

Once the board identified the solution, it moved rapidly, but now must await state Education Department approval to actually launch the project.

With the state backed up on reviewing projects from many districts, it’s expected to take several months before the O.K. comes through.

The reality is that it’s likely to be sometime in the fall of 2015 before all work is completed.

Also in the overall plan to upgrade infrastructure at the school is the installation of 98 solar panels, which will save money in a dramatic fashion as the building and the district face the future.

That the heating project must and will be done is a given. What voters will decide next Tuesday is whether to allow the district to float a bond not to exceed $1.63 million to pay for the work over time, or find a way to finance the job in a single year at a considerable spike in taxes.

Just as school officials and the maintenance workers stepped up to the plate to move the project along while sacrificing to keep the building heated and cooled in the past year, it’s time for voters to step up and vote yes on the bond.

Voting takes place in the school gymnasium between noon and 9 p.m. on Tuesday. Let your voice be heard. And make an affirmative endorsement of the vital needs that exist and the sensible solution to financing that the Board of Education has developed.