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Construction

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Rocky Point Board of Education members announce the results for the bond. Photo by Giselle Barkley

After much anticipation, the Rocky Point Board of Education members revealed the results for the school district’s $20.4 million maintenance bond after voting took place on Monday, and the results were less than impressive.

The bond’s $17,478,513 Proposition 1 received 396 votes in opposition and 320 votes in favor. Proposition 2 was also defeated, 465 to 233 votes.

The bond aimed to target repairs and renovations to the facilities, as well as health and safety projects. Proposition 1 focused on major projects, like bathroom repairs, upkeep, or additions, like outdoor bathrooms; fixing boilers; lighting ceilings; air conditioning; and locker room renovations, among other projects. Proposition 2 dealt with what some residents perceived as minor projects. This included funding items like artificial grass.

Less than 1,000 residents went to the Rocky Point High School gymnasium and voted on the bond. Wendy Guthy, of Rocky Point, whose third child recently graduated from the high school, was one of many residents who voted against the bond.

“There are things that the community doesn’t feel is necessary based on what [the Board of Education] told us two years ago,” Guthy said.

She said the board informed residents that the institution was in good standing in 2013. Guthy also added her thoughts on some renovations she found unnecessary, like repairs to the turf on the athletic field. Other residents shared Guthy’s same opinion regarding the bond’s minor projects. Rocky Point resident Judy Stringer said the bond’s propositions had “too much fluff and too many wants…instead of needs.”

“All those extra bathrooms and turf is not needed,” Stringer said in a phone interview. “Things that should be taken care of [are] the high school bathrooms and the Frank J. Carasiti bathrooms. Those things are important and necessary for the children.”

While Guthy said no to the renovations, it is not because she wants to deprive students of the renovations, but thinks about the pressure it would put on parents’ wallets.

“It’s difficult to say, ‘No,’ to the kids,” Guthy said. “But you have to be budget-minded too.”

According to the board’s newsletter regarding the bond, the state would have funded the majority of the bond, which requires taxpayer dollars. Despite this, the board’s newsletter claimed that Rocky Point taxpayers would pay less than $8 monthly to fund the propositions. Residents would have experienced a total tax impact of $92.35 if the bond was passed. Even if Proposition 2 passed, the approval of the entire bond would depend on whether the first proposition passed.

One resident, who did not want to give her name directly after voting, said she felt bad voting in opposition of the bond but she “wanted to send a message, that [the Rocky Point Board of Education]…shouldn’t tack on those extra things.” While this resident admitted that a new heating system was in order among other necessities, she said minor projects deterred her from voting for the bill. At the time, she believed the bond would pass.

During the Aug. 31 Board of Education meeting, some individuals from the New York State United Teachers School Related Professionals Association gathered to voice their opinions regarding teaching assistants versus teaching aides, and added that they would not vote in favor of the bond if the board were to eliminate teaching aide positions. Jessica Ward’s position as a teaching aide was eliminated during that meeting.

Many of these individuals attended the Monday meeting.

Rocky Point BOE President Susan Sullivan said the board tried to address the needs of the school and was disappointed with Monday night’s results on the bond.

“As elected representatives of our community, the Board of Education worked to present a bond that struck a balance between the infrastructural needs of our buildings and repairs that would preserve the integrity of our schools in a financially responsible manner,” Sullivan said in an email. “It is disappointing that the proposal presented did not garner the support of our community. We are committed to continuing to provide our students and staff with a safe and secure learning environment and will work together with our community to discuss ways to properly support our educational facilities.”

Despite the results, Superintendent of Schools for Rocky Point school district, Michael Ring, still appreciated residents’ participation with the bond.

“The district thanks the public for their participation in the bond vote,” Ring said in an email. “Moving forward, the district will continue to review its facilities’ needs in order to determine actions that may be necessary to sustain the integrity and maintenance of our buildings and grounds.”

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A view of a healing garden at Mather Hospital’s new pavilion. Photo from the hospital

New facilities at John T. Mather Memorial Hospital aim to reduce infection rates and bring more doctors to the area.

The Port Jefferson hospital recently dedicated its new Arthur & Linda Calace Foundation Pavilion, adding more than 28,400 square feet of space to the north side of the hospital that is being used to house patient rooms as well as medical offices and conference rooms.

According to Mather spokesman Stuart Vincent, there are 35 one-bed rooms in the new pavilion. Rather than using the space to add to the hospital’s 248 beds, beds were moved from existing double rooms into the new pavilion, creating 70 new single-bed patient rooms throughout the hospital.

A view of a patient bedroom at Mather Hospital. Photo from the hospital
A view of a patient bedroom at Mather Hospital. Photo from the hospital

Taking away those 35 double rooms and adding the 70 single rooms means “for the first time, the majority of rooms at Mather are now single-bedded, which aids in both patient healing and in reducing the risk of infection spreading among patients,” Vincent said in an email.

The patient rooms in the new pavilion will be used for intermediate care and will each have their own medication cabinet and a computer for managing patient information, according to Vincent. The unit also keeps nurses close to patients, with nursing stations throughout the floor.

Joseph Wisnoski, CFO at Mather, said in a previous statement, “A single-bed patient room is no longer a luxury, but the standard for hospitals across the nation.”

That patient unit is located above two floors of new offices and conference rooms and a 180-seat conference center. When the hospital broke ground on the expansion project two years ago, officials said the office space would be used to combat a shortage of primary care physicians by training more of those professionals — who would then hopefully stay in the area — in a graduate education program that includes seminars and symposia.

The pavilion is Mather’s first expansion in more than a decade, and Vincent said it is the sixth expansion since the hospital opened in 1929. It was named for Arthur and Linda Calace, the primary donors on the project, who raised their family nearby and wanted to give back to the community. The Calaces and other donors combined to cover $5 million of the total construction cost.

File photo

Local politicians and Huntington Town residents have successfully lobbied the state Department of Transportation to halt construction of a rest stop on exit 51 of the Long Island Expressway.

Individuals were up in arms over the proposal, and lawmakers expressed their dissatisfaction about the plans. Suffolk County Legislator Steve Stern (D-Dix Hills) said it’s an unacceptable location for a rest stop and said the rest stop itself is unnecessary.

“It backs a residential area,” Stern said in a phone interview. “Unlike other rest stops or centers, where they carry on commercial activity, on the LIE, here all the exits are about a mile apart. There is an ample supply of restaurants, shopping centers and restrooms at every exit, so there is no need for a separate rest stop at this location.”

Stern said the plan calls for featuring the state’s Taste NY program, designed to promote New York’s agriculture vendors. This particular Taste NY would serve as a gateway for Long Island wine country out east, according to Stern.

“This exit is a long way from being a gateway to the East End,” Stern said about why this exit choice doesn’t make sense to promote Taste NY.

According to Stern, Suffolk County has made an offer to work with New York State to create a Taste NY location off exit 67 in Yaphank, which Stern said is a more appropriate location.

Gary Holmes, director of communications for the state’s Department of Transportation, said no work is currently being done at exit 51.

“The commissioner has held several productive meetings with local and state officials on Long Island, and while no decisions have been made about the rest stop at exit 51, we look forward to continued conversations about the health and safety of all users of the LIE,” Holmes said in an email. “LIE motorists deserve a safe place to rest and we’ll keep working on the best way to do that.”

Town Councilwoman Susan Berland (D) said the rest stop should not be added, and that she started fighting plans for it 15 years ago.

“I led the charge against this rest stop when I was vice president of the House Beautiful Dix Hills Civic Association,” Berland said in a phone interview. “I have always been opposed to this.”

She also said the Taste NY aspect is inappropriate, and that the state should not be selling alcohol on an expressway: “The last thing you want to do is give people the opportunity to get alcohol there.”

Berland said the rest stop is too close to a residential community, and the construction the state’s done so far was done without permission. She said residents are already being impacted by the sound of the LIE because brush berms have been removed.

Assemblyman Chad A. Lupinacci (R-Huntington Station) agreed that the rest stop is disruptive to residential life near exit 51.

“The location is poor because of the noise and the secondary effects it will have to the area and the residents,” Lupinacci said in a phone interview. “I am totally against it.”

Suffolk County Legislator William “Doc” Spencer (D-Centerport) agreed with his colleagues that the rest stop should not go up, and that the voices of Huntington are not being heard.

“It doesn’t sound like the Town of Huntington was involved in this decision,” Spencer said in a phone interview. “I always think coordination and communication with the community is key.”

A black dog at Kent Animal Shelter sits in one of the buildings closest to the Peconic River. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Kent Animal Shelter has always been close to the Peconic Lake. Maybe too close.

The 47-year-old facility was built on River Road in Calverton less than 50 feet from Peconic Lake, which leads to Peconic River. As the lake flows into the river, so does the Shelter’s wastewater.

In 2012, the shelter began its process to get a waiver to expand its five-building facility and install a new septic system to avoid contaminating the Peconic’s surface water. According to Pamela Green, executive director of the shelter, the shelter also wants to tear down two of its building and construct one, approximately 10,000 square foot building closer to River Road. The hope is that relocating these buildings will put 300 feet between the shelter and the water, which will limit the amount of wastewater dumped into the Peconic Lake and river.

But Richard Amper, executive director of the Long Island Pine Barrens Society, said the shelter doesn’t qualify for the waiver for its prospective projects. Although Amper said the society doesn’t oppose the shelter’s projects, he said the facility’s desire to move closer to River Road infringes on Long Island Pine Barrens’ core preservation area. According to Amper, construction is not permitted by law in that area to help “protect the Island’s purest source of water.”

“The only way anyone can get a waiver is to demonstrate that they have no beneficial use of the property absent the waiver, or that public health and safety depends upon the construction occurring in the Pine Barrens core,” Amper said. “Kent does not meet that requirement, and if the waiver were granted, it would create a dangerous precedent for others who want to develop in the Pine Barrens core.”

Amper claimed that the shelter’s new proposed septic system would discharge 2,700 gallons of wastewater daily into the land’s underground aquifer. However, Green said the wastewater isn’t in close proximity to the aquifer for drinking water, as the wastewater goes into the Peconic.

Peconic Lake is located several feet from two of Kent Animal Shelters’ buildings. Photo by Giselle Barkley
Peconic Lake is located several feet from two of Kent Animal Shelters’ buildings. Photo by Giselle Barkley

Currently, the shelter wants to demolish its kennel, which rests on the river bank, as well as the small cottage located across from the kennel. The shelter also wants to relocate its clinic and include it into the nearly 10,000 square foot building, alongside a new kennel and cat facilities. One of the cat facilities, also on the bank of the Peconic, houses senior cats that will live out their lives at the shelter.

Thus far, the shelter has received permits from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation and the Suffolk County Health Department.

“The last hurdle is the Pine Barrens commission,” Green said, about Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission.

Where the commission differs from the Pine Barrens Society is that the commission decides whether the shelter will receive the waiver to expand its facility and upgrade its septic system. The commission is comprised of County Executive Steve Bellone (D); Brookhaven Town Supervisor Ed Romaine (R); Riverhead Town Supervisor Sean Walter (R) and Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst (D). A fifth individual will be added at a later date.

Amper said the society reached out to these supervisors, who are in the Pine Barrens towns, hoping that at least one of these officials will help provide the shelter with two to three acres of property for the shelter to expand and install a new septic system.

Green added that the Pine Barrens Society is threatening the commission with a lawsuit if the commission grants the shelter a hardship permit, which Green believes the shelter is eligible for as parts of the shelter are dilapidated and won’t be useful once the shelter cannot use the facility.

But Amper said this is a standard procedure. He also said even if the commission likes the shelter’s proposal, they can’t legally grant a waiver to the shelter to build on the area.

“If the commission is allowed to say, ‘We don’t care what the law says; we just like this project,’ then there’s no protection of the core area and the underground water supply,” Amper said. “The commission can’t make the law nor can they make decisions that contradict the law. It’s not that any of us dislike what they’re proposing; it’s not the value of the project, it’s where they’re proposing to build it.”

Romaine denied to comment on the issues and process the shelter is experiencing.

“As a member of the Central Pine Barrens Joint Planning and Policy Commission, it is not appropriate for me to comment at this time regarding an issue which is still under consideration,” Romaine said in an email.

The commission will vote on whether the shelter will receive a waiver on Oct. 21, at the Pine Barrens Commission meeting at Brookhaven Town Hall, according to Amper. The shelter will need three out of five votes to acquire the waiver to go through with its reconstruction plan, including the installation of a new septic system.

“We’re trying to prevent [surface water contamination] from happening by putting a new septic system and removing the channel off the river and abandoning the leaching field,” Green said. “This would be an upgrade for the environment.”

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Miller Place Superintendent Marianne Higuera. File photo

Miller Place school district is on its way to completing the bond project voted in March of 2014.

At the board of education meeting on Aug. 26, Superintendent Marianne F. Higuera said the projects are near 80 percent complete. The total projected cost for the bond projects was approximately $7.5 million, when first presented in March of 2014.

The board held multiple public meetings throughout 2013 and 2014 for residents to voice concerns and learn more about the planned updates and repairs.

Most of the projects are specific to certain schools, with one general project that will affect every school in the district.

A district-wide phone system is currently being installed, which will replace the current system that predates 1999. The projected cost is $501,500, and the instillation is expected to be completed by November.

At Miller Place High School, tennis courts have been completely repaired, as well as repairs to the baseball and softball fields. The track is 95 percent done to being fully replaced, and additional turf fields and stadium lighting is also at 95 percent completion.

The high school qualified for state aid on approximately $3 million of field and grounds projects, according to the March 2014 board of education presentation.

Laddie A. Decker Sound Beach School and Andrew Muller Primary School both had a new security vestibule constructed. Laddie Decker’s is approximately 99 percent completed and the primary school’s work is done. The primary school also had a roof replacement, which has been fully completed.

At North Country Road Middle School, there are new tennis courts. Repairs to the baseball and softball fields are basically completed, as well as an irrigation system to improve the quality of the soil. There will also be a roof replacement. The roof replacement projects are expected to cost approximately $1 million, for both Laddie Decker and North Country Middle.

Miller Place school district will be reimbursed for 72.4 percent of the costs of all projects, excluding the security vestibules at Laddie Decker and Andrew Primary, according to the board of education. This is a 15-year bond, with an average annual payment of $669,488. The projected tax increase was $1.98.

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Cracked pavement is on Kings Park’s list of things to repair. Photo from Timothy Eagen

Kings Park Central School District has big plans in its future, in terms of renovations.

“When you think of the hamlet of Kings Park, there is no greater investment than in its school facilities,” Superintendent Timothy Eagen said.

The Kings Park Board of Education created a facilities committee this past May. The district reached out to community members once the committee was formed to invite residents and employees to join.

“We had 20 responses from staff and the community, and members were ultimately chosen so as to best represent Kings Park, while also making sure to include members with knowledge of facilities and grounds,” Eagen said in an email.

The committee is made up of two board members, seven district employees, one student and eight resident volunteers.

Throughout the summer, the committee traveled to all the schools in the district, surveying the damages, repairs and upgrades needed in each building.

Currently the total dollar value of every item under consideration is approximately $40 million.

The board was presented with a long list of what the committee believes to be necessary updates to the buildings at Tuesdays board meeting.

“I love this district, my kids all go here, and I think the upgrades are a total necessity,” Tara Samson, a member of the committee said.

Out of the projects, up to 82 percent would be focused on infrastructure, with 8 percent going to healthy, safety and security, 8 percent to athletics and recreation, and 2 percent to curriculum and instruction.

“Our buildings are not getting any younger,” Eagen said.

The youngest school building in the district is William T. Rogers Middle School, which was established in 1970. And the oldest building is RJO Intermediate School, which was built in 1928.

Members of the committee and Eagen both agreed that these schools are all well past their prime and are in need of major infrastructure renovations.

Parking lot renovations and drainage are issues every school building shares. Whether it’s the front parking lot or the back parking lot, each school has cracks in the pavement, on the sidewalks and stairs, potholes, and problems with flooding when it rains.

The removal of vinyl asbestos tiles is also crucial in every building, with the fear that damaged tiles are releasing asbestos fibers into the air.

Plumbing repairs, electrical upgrades and boiler upgrades were also echoed sentiments at each school.

“My children run home everyday to use the bathroom, since they refuse to use the ones at school,” Samson said.

Members of the committee also said that money is flying out the windows of the schools every day, since there is little to no insulation left in many of the original windows for each building. This is contributing to added costs in heating and air conditioning.

“In WTR middle school, the heating controls are located on the roof, which is incredibly inefficient and needs to change,” Tony Tanzi, a member of the committee, said.

It is hoped a major part of the renovation funds will go toward installing new roofs in almost every building.

With the exception of Park View Elementary School, where the roof was replaced two years ago after Hurricane Sandy damaged it, every roof in the district is more than 10 years old, and two are more than 20 years old. The intermediate and middle schools both have their original roofs.

Kings Park High School is in danger of having its track condemned, which means it would no longer be allowed to hold track meets, according to a committee member.

Aside from track replacement, additional bleachers and lighting, upgrades to the concession stand, additional field irrigation and more were listed under consideration by the committee.

Overall approximately 75 percent of the work is planned for the high school and middle school.

“The library [at the high school], is not really a library at all, it’s used as a second cafeteria,” Casey Samson, a Kings Park high school student and committee member, said.

Renovations to the library are under consideration of the committee right now, including a media makeover and a new second floor loft space.

As far as curriculum and instruction improvements, the committee wants to utilize the New York State Smart Schools Bond Act that has allocated $1.454 million for Kings Park.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) initiated the Smart Schools Bond Act last year, with the intention to invest $2 billion in New York’s schools that will put schools in the 21st century and ensure that students graduate with the skills they need to thrive in today’s economy.

Expenditure through this act would include educational technology equipment, high-speed broadband or wireless Internet connectivity, and capital projects to install high-tech security features.

The committee also wants to shift toward solar energy in the Kings Park school district, including the installation of solar panels on roofs, and purchasing electricity through a renewable energy company.

SunEdison, a global renewable energy company headquartered in the United States, would design, own, operate, monitor and maintain anything they set up in Kings Park, according to the committee.

If Kings Park purchased electricity from SunEdison, it would be at a lower rate than the district is currently paying PSEG Long Island. Kings Park would retain its PSEGLI account, but would require less electricity from the utility if it began working with SunEdison.

“We are looking at ways to save the community money, and with solar energy we could save $100,00 annually,” Eagen said.

The committee is in the process of prioritizing the items that were identified, and then they will make a recommendation to the board of education. Eagen anticipates that this will occur by the end of September.

Once the recommendation is made, the board will decide on a final package, and a timeline for voter approval. If everything moves forward as planned, the next step would be to follow the project bidding process and get the New York State Education Department’s approval.

If approval is given, the goal is for the highest priority projects to begin in summer 2016.

Three Village Central School District is constructing a new building on its administration property. Photo by Phil Corso

A new, $1.6 million, 4,000-square-foot facility for maintenance and operations is rising on the North Country Administration property on Suffolk Avenue in Stony Brook.

Money from the recent bond is being used to fund the building, which will provide relief for the administration building, which now houses ground crew supplies, carpentry facilities and a paint shop in one of its wings. The district’s auto shop is a separate building also located on the premises.

The new building will mean that there will be more space inside the administration center for career and technical classrooms for the Three Village Academy, said Jeff Carlson, assistant superintendent for business services. Being able to provide vocational courses will save the district the fees it pays to BOCES, he said.

“We want to make it nicer for the neighborhood,” Carlson said of the construction. “We want to be a good neighbor.”

Though some neighbors might be disappointed to see the baseball fields on the south side of the building sacrificed, Carlson said the administration plans to spruce up the fields on the other side of the building.

First of many school improvement plans submitted for review

The Bicycle Path school will be getting a new security vestibule in the near future. File photo by Erika Karp

The Middle Country school district is ready to move forward with several capital improvement projects for some of its 15 schools but is facing obstacles as state approval for the projects could take 34 weeks.

At the April 1 school board meeting, board President Karen Lessler gave an update on the approximate $125 million bond voters approved last November. Currently, the district is looking at roof repair, resurfacing tracks, security upgrades and more.

“The obstacle that we are currently facing is that the type one projects, which are one-shot projects that are not so complex, are taking eight weeks to get through the [New York State Education Department],” Lessler said.

According to the facilities planning division of the state education department, final engineering review will take about 32 to 34 weeks. There are approximately 930 projects awaiting review. According to Saverio Belfiore, of Melville-based H2M architects + engineers, the district’s engineering firm, roof repairs and track resurfacing projects for the high schools have been submitted to the education department.

A representative from the department did not return a request for comment.

Some of the bonded money will be used to replace 4,000 windows district wide. Many windows have not been replaced in more than 20 years, officials previously stated. Window replacement qualifies as a type one project and will be replaced overnight and throughout the summer, according to Lessler.

Security is another high-priority item for the district. Currently, details are being finalized with building principals for security upgrades to each building. According to Belfiore, upgrades to the secured entry vestibule at the prekindergarten centers, Eugene Auer Elementary, North Coleman Road Elementary and Oxhead Road Elementary have been submitted.

Belfiore said many of the district’s projects are type one and should be approved in the shorter time frame, while the other projects should begin this summer.

Putting the obstacles aside, Lessler said everything is moving along.

Roped off parking spaces on the fourth level of the Huntington Long Island Rail Road train station's south parking garage earlier this year. File photo by Rohma Abbas

Huntington Town is slated this week to reopen more than half of the 228 parking spaces at the Huntington Long Island Rail Road station’s south parking garage it closed off earlier this year.

The town will reopen 116 spaces on the fourth level of the garage on Wednesday, April 8, it announced in a Monday statement. The spaces were closed as part of an emergency repair project on the fifth level, where there are still currently 112 spaces out of commission.

Parking stalls on the fourth level were closed off “as a safety precaution” because they were located directly underneath work that included removing parking deck concrete in certain areas, repairing cables and structural reinforcement, according to the town.

“The project has reached a stage where the remaining work no longer presents a potential falling debris hazard to persons and vehicles on the fourth level, allowing for the spaces to reopen,” the town said in a statement.

Spaces on the fifth level are scheduled to reopen on April 20.

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