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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, October 7, 2010

Will BKW build through the winter?

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — The Berne-Knox-Westerlo School District’s $12.7-million building project, now three years in the making, is gaining momentum.

The district is currently weighing its options after finding out in August that bids for the project came in $1.4 million under budget. The school board heard last week that two pieces to the project may be built sooner than planned, possibly allowing the project to be completed months ahead of schedule.

The district is considering the following three options:

— While the proposal approved in 2007 would bond $2,028,780 over 15 years, the district may now bond less;

— The district may reserve the $1.4 million as a “cushion” for unforeseen expenses, and leave the total amount to be spent on the project at $12.7 million; or

— The district may designate the $1.4 million for building-upgrade needs that have arisen since the 2007 vote.

“We’ve just got the project going, and so we’re still in that kind of wait-and-see mode,” Business Official Kevin Callagy told The Enterprise this week. “We have our building conditions survey that is being done; that report may help to determine what other things the board would consider. But at this point, I believe we’re really just going to wait and see, pending that report.”

Carl Griffith, the project’s architect, and his firm, Griffith Dardanelli Architects, are performing the conditions survey, Callagy said, and the district expects that the report will be finished by mid-January.

Fast track

“We’re looking at accelerating the installation of the new playground,” said August Freeman at the Sept. 27 school board meeting.

This past May, the school board appointed Freeman, a former longtime Cairo-Durham School Board member, as its clerk of the works for the building project. Freeman gave the board an update on the project last week.

“As long as we don’t get real bitter cold, where the frost goes in so deep that we can’t deal with it, or we don’t get those 60-inch snow storms you guys like to have up here…everybody’s on board with building right through,” Freeman said. “We’re preparing a schedule based on doing both additions and trying to finish this thing maybe five or six months earlier than we thought, rather than go through two full years.”

District voters originally approved the project on Dec. 18, 2007. This included adding a new cafeteria, kitchen, technology lab, and computer classroom. There will be new locker rooms, and the gym will be extended to make up for space lost in other parts of the reconstruction.

The reconstruction was needed because the campus does not comply with the federal Americans With Disabilities Act. But, given the current economic climate, some taxpayers had come to meetings and demanded that the board find cheaper ways to make the buildings accessible to those with handicaps.

Construction on the new boys’ locker room is set to begin soon, according to the district website. Reconstruction of the middle-high school gymnasium is tentatively scheduled to start in March, with heating and electrical work, restroom upgrades, and rebuilding of the main lobby, scheduled for next summer.

But, while work on the new cafeteria was set to start in April, the school board heard last week that things might be happening sooner than planned.

“Right now, contractors are pushing me — and I’m not resisting even a little bit — to possibly start the cafeteria addition this year,” also depending on the weather, Freeman said. Freeman reported to the board on other findings as well.

“We found that the original building where the locker rooms are now has no footing,” he told the board. “It never has; it’s just built on a rock.”

Board member Sean O’Connor interjected.

“Well, hold it — that’s footing to some of the folks up here,” O’Connor joked.

“If it weren’t such an earthquake zone, I probably wouldn’t really think about it that much,” Freeman replied. “But, since you are, we’re going to put footing under the new stuff anyway just in case.”

Freeman went on to say that workers discovered an active sewer line made out of asbestos, which is slated to be removed. Either way, he sees no reason the cafeteria and playground could not be finished early, based on his conversations with the contractors, he said.

“The sooner we get done, the less interruption, the less disruption, the sooner you get back to life as you know it,” Freeman concluded.

“This sounds great, Augie,” said board member Helen Lounsbury after Freeman’s summation. “This board is conditioned to waiting to hear the other shoe dropping, so this sounds really positive.”

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