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capital bond

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Rocky Point High School. File photo by Desirée Keegan

The Rocky Point school district is battening down the hatches and shoring up its defenses with money from its ongoing capital bond project.

The newly renovated music room in the high school. Photo from Rocky Point

The district has finished phase 2 of its list of projects set after passing a 2016 bond proposal. Much of the work has already been completed, including replacing the aging ceiling and lighting in much of the district’s four school buildings.

“What we did weren’t things that are exciting like adding on a new wing, new classrooms or a new gymnasium, they were basic things to keep serving the students,” Superintendent Michael Ring said.

In 2016 Rocky Point residents voted to let the district borrow $16 million for upgrades and repairs. The first half of the project, amounting to roughly $7 million, was completed in summer 2017. Parts of the second half of the plan, costing approximately $9 million, were completed before the start of the school year Sept. 4, according to the district.

In 2017, residents also approved with a 600 to 312 vote to release $3.4 million in capital reserve funds to work in tandem with the bond projects. That money was used to renovate the district’s music classrooms as well as finishing resealing of the middle school’s exterior brickwork to prevent water penetration. There are also plans for a future reconfiguration of the roadways on middle and high school property. Work is ongoing to refurbish the turf on the high school’s lower field, but Ring said weather has delayed the project. He said it should be completed within the next few weeks.

Renovated locker rooms at Rocky Point High School. Photo from Rocky Point

Last year’s bond work included new boilers and renovated bathrooms at the Joseph A. Edgar Elementary School, as well as adding air conditioning to the high school auditorium. Summer 2018 construction, overseen by Huntington Station-based Park East Construction Corp., provided renovations to the high school’s boys and girls locker rooms and bathrooms. An Americans With Disabilities Act-compliant lift for the high school gym stage was also installed. Along with the work at the high school, the Frank J. Carasiti Elementary School cafeteria had new air conditioning installed.

Ring said the most substantial improvement to district buildings during the past summer was the installation of new LED lighting fixtures throughout the high school and JAE elementary. The new lighting should be more energy efficient, he said, while giving the school the opportunity to replace aging ceiling tiles in places that had not been addressed for close to 50 years, since the high school was constructed.

Work to renovate the middle school’s lighting system will take place during the year after school hours. FJC elementary has had its lighting replaced in the building’s corridors, and the rest of the building’s lighting will be updated in summer 2019.

These lighting fixtures include new “daylight harvesting technology” that will dim the lights depending upon the amount of natural light that enters the room, which Ring said should save on electrical costs. The new lights also have occupancy sensors that will shut off all lights if there is nobody in the room.

“That’s so you don’t see that effect you see when you’re driving down the road and the whole building is lit up, even if it’s 8 o’clock at night,” Ring said.

Newly installed LED hallway lighting at Frank J. Carasiti Elementary School. Photo from Rocky Point

As part of the bond project, the district is also looking to beef up security at its buildings. The district added unarmed security guards to school buildings for the start of the new school year. Rocky Point is also looking to implement a new door access system to reject unwanted intruders as well as “door-ajar systems” that will notify the school if a door is being propped open from the inside.

The district also wants to improve its security camera capabilities by adding more camera coverage as well as installing new facial recognition and license plate reading technology. Ring said those projects are currently on hold awaiting New York State approval. If approved, the district will immediately put proposals out for bid so construction of those security additions can begin before the end of the 2018-19 school year, according to the superintendent.

Ring said he happy with the results of the bond work so far, even as it became stressful to finish ongoing projects before students returned for the start of classes.

“It’s always a relief when it’s done because it’s always a stressful time,” Ring said. “When you look at the end of June and things are getting pulled apart, then hoping and praying they get put back together for September. Hopefully next year’s project will come along, and the same thing will happen.”

A rendering of what the front of the proposed new St. James firehouse would look like. Image from St. James Fire District

By Sara-Megan Walsh

Firefighters are known for running into danger, but it can be difficult to get to the scene when firefighters are facing significant risk simply getting to their trucks.

St. James fire commissioners are asking residents to consider a $12.25 million capital bond project to build a new 22,458-square-foot Jefferson Avenue facility Sept. 19.

“We are not looking to build a luxurious firehouse, as other communities have,” St. James Fire District Chairman Lawrence Montrose wrote in a letter with other commissioners. “We are simply looking to provide our dedicated volunteers with the basic and modern resources they need to effectively do their job — a job that protects and serves the residents of this community in their greatest times of need.”

The proposal being voted on in the St. James Fire District includes tearing down the Jefferson Avenue firehouse and replacing the structure with one nearly three times as large. Photo from Google Maps

The fire district’s existing Jefferson Avenue facility sustained significant damage in an August 2016 storm. The building’s pre-existing infrastructure issues allowed 6 to 18 inches of water to rise up through the floors, flooding the building, according to the St. James Fire District commissioners through a spokesperson. The flood caused cracks to the weight-bearing walls in the truck bay and worsened stress cracks in the fire chief and commissioner’s offices, in addition to plumbing and electrical damage.

Since the flood, Jefferson Avenue volunteer firefighters have been getting into their gear in one building before running across the parking lot to get on a truck. While this is happening, the fire commissioners said other volunteers are often still entering the parking lot, creating a major safety concern. Volunteers are in danger of being hit by incoming vehicles as they cross to the trucks.

“One instance was almost a catastrophic event,” said the fire commissioners. “One individual fell in the parking lot and was almost run over by an exiting fire truck.”

Other safety issues have arisen. Two of the district’s fire companies are operating out of what was originally the storage and maintenance structure built on the rear of the property. Trucks responding to one of the district’s 1,298 calls in 2016 also had to maneuver through the traffic. Fire commissioner chiefs compared the situation to playing the video game Frogger.

The proposed Jefferson Avenue facility, if approved by voters, would be more than three times the size of the existing 7,407-square-foot building. The additional space would include spaces to serve as accommodations for firefighters and community members during storms or major emergencies, in addition to a meeting room for district and public use. It would be built in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, as the current firehouse is not.

St. James fire commissioners will be moving forward with selling the historic firehouse on Route 25A/Lake Avenue. Photo from Google Maps

If voters approve the project, construction of the new Jefferson Avenue facility would start around six months after the vote and would be completed within one year. Volunteer response to emergencies would not be interrupted by the construction, according to the district.

Regardless of voters’ decision, St. James fire commissioners said they will move forward with selling off the Route 25A/Lake Avenue building, purchased by the district for $500,000 in 2013. Due to the facility’s age, it’s not suited for the district’s needs.

The estimated cost of the proposed plan to consolidate to one Jefferson Avenue facility would be an increase of approximately $118 to $198 a year for taxpayers based on their home’s assessed value.

St. James Fire District will be holding a public information session for those who wish to learn more Aug. 29 at the Jefferson Avenue firehouse at 7 p.m. Residents can also tour existing facilities Sept. 9 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sept. 14 from 7 to 9 p.m. and Sept. 17 from 1 to 3 p.m.