Bonding Package Tops $15 Million

Residents will soon be asked to vote yes on a bonding package totaling $15.2 million with half of the spending going toward the four elementary schools in town.{{more}}

First Selectman Jim Zeoli said he supports the bonding package.

“I am very supportive and hope everyone in Orange is as well,” Zeoli said.

“They (school officials) worked on this very hard and were very cognizant of the difficult economic times. They were not blinded or led in one direction. A lot of thought went into this project and it was reviewed in great depth,” Zeoli said.

Both the bonding commission and Board of Selectmen endorse the projects.

Bonding and Finance commission member Kevin Moffett said the bond would be spread out over 20 years. He could not say what the financial impact to homeowners would be.

“Once the town approves the bond it goes out to bid to various financial institutions. The interest rate vary. We’ll chose the best offer (from the financial institutions),” he said.

Residents will have the opportunity to see a complete presentation, ask questions and voice their opinions at a Town Meeting March 13, 7:30 p.m. at High Plains Community Center. A referendum vote on the bonding will take place March 20 noon to 8 p.m. at High Plains Community Center.

On the school side the bonding package includes $705,000 for security upgrades. The Board of Finance has already authorized $150,000 for immediate security needs including rapid call buttons in each school and an identification badge entry system.

“The Board of Ed did a good job in studying the concerns and needs to be addressed in the wake of the Newtown tragedy. The superintendent was very upfront and we’ll do the best we can for the safety of everyone. And if this is what it will take we’ll get it done,” Zeoli said.

Additional security upgrades include door locks with auto lock from the hallways and a video surveillance systems that will monitor entrances, community areas, offices, hallways along with the exterior of buildings including bus drop offs. Police will also be able to monitor the schools with the fiber optic system.

Superintendent of Schools Lynn McMullin said the Board of Education has spent nearly a year determining what needed to be updated first at the schools. She said the vast majority of the updating deals with the schools shells. She said there wasn’t anything ‘extra’ tossed in.

The school projects include new boilers at Peck Place and Race Brook schools.

Race Brooks boiler was installed in 1959 when the original square footage was 32,900. That footage is now 48,900.

The boiler at Turkey Hill was installed in 1964 when the square footage was 46,624. Today it is 54,324 square feet.

McMullin said the boilers have been working overtime trying to heat schools much larger than they were designed to heat.

McMullin said the boiler is so bad at Turkey Hill the BOE set aside $23,000 in case the it didn’t make it through the winter. Those funds would be used to bring in portable heat for the classrooms.

“Both schools are poised to go to gas with hook ups in place,” McMullin said so there would be some immediate cost savings with the new gas boilers.

Also the HVAC systems will be replaced.

“They are antiquated and very noisy,” she said.

“At Turkey Hill with all the white noise teachers have to talk over the heaters, she said.

The new systems will be controlled by computer and will be easy to adjust.

Peck Place, Turkey Hill and Race Brook schools all need new roofs.

“All the roofs are flat and each one has its own set of problems,” McMullin said.

McMullin said the roof membranes have exceeded their life expectancy and each roof contains numerous failed patch jobs. Plus, she said, the lack of pitch has created ponding of water along with plant growth on them.

Peck Place School will see a revised bus drop off circle in addition to a repaved parking lot.

Right now, she said, it is an accident waiting to happen with buses and cars crossing paths. The student drop off area will be redesigned as well.

Windows and doors will also be replaced in all the schools.

McMullin said it is impossible to get parts to repair them because they are so old.

She said air leaks around the doors bringing cold air into the buildings. Some of the windows are not operational.

“Repairs are costing a significant amount of money,” McMullin said.

The fascia at Mary L. Tracy School is deteriorating.

“This is a building with a lot of pride and it has not been taken care of,” McMullin said.

The balance of the bonding will be used for a variety of repairs to town facilities.

Including $5 million for town road repairs, $2 million for town facilities including increased parking, a new heating system and south wing renovation at High Plains Community Center.

A new HVAC system and boiler for the police department and repairs to the library roof round out the bonding expenditures.

Bridget can be reached at Follow her on Twitter: @totbalbert / facebook Bridget AlbertTot.