BKW garage drains wait for money

The Enterprise file photo — Marcello Iaia

Where will the water go? A bus is lifted inside the Berne-Knox-Westerlo vehicle bay where snowmelt and rain runoff collect on the floor — a problem that interim Superintendent Lonnie Palmer said he hopes to address before winter.

BERNE — Considering engineers’ estimates ranging from $50,000 to $120,000, Lonnie Palmer, Berne-Knox-Westerlo’s interim superintendent, said Tuesday that he would be seeking less expensive, if temporary, ways of fixing bus-garage drainage problems before winter. Engineers have recommended replacing the entire concrete floor of the Berne-Knox-Westerlo vehicle bay, where snowmelt from school buses doesn’t drain properly and forms puddles.

“You could tell, with the amount of money they were asking, this is not a budgeted item,” said Mark Kellett, the district’s interim business official.

Palmer couldn’t provide details of a less costly option at this point. “It’d be too early for me to say. I’d have to go around to get an idea,” he said.

The school is undergoing emergency repairs to a library floor damaged when drains overflowed during heavy June rainfall. The total cost for the library repairs could reach $137,500 in emergency money from the district’s fund balance. Palmer expects the money to be reimbursed through an insurance claim that may not be settled for years.

The library repair project will be finished about a week after the Sept. 5 starting date for school, Kellett said.

Darlene Shrederis, a BKW bus driver and local unit president of the Civil Service Employees’ Association, told The Enterprise in November that the floor of the garage is pitched toward the center, but the drain has been cemented over, and its holding tank has been removed. Mechanics are at risk using power tools near the puddle, she said, so sump pumps are used to drain the graywater into roadside ditches when buses accumulate snow.

Palmer, who started at BKW in June, said he hasn’t seen the problem but understands it as “more of a nuisance than a risk.”

The $100,000 to $120,000 cost of the replacement project, proposed by Schafer Engineering Associates in a May report, includes an oil-water separator required by the state’s Department of Environmental Conservation. 

A second, less expensive option from Schafer would be to cut the existing floor in order to install drains and piping. This would cost between $50,000 and $75,000, the report said.

 “This option will not take care of the current slab settlement, adequate slab thickness, and positive slope drainage issues. Maintenance crews will likely still need to squeegee standing water toward the new floor drains,” the report says, adding that standing water could damage the concrete where it had been cut.

Tax rates

Voters approved the 2013-14 budget in May with the same $10.89 million levy as last year. The school board approved the levy amount at its Aug. 12 meeting.

The BKW district lies in parts of seven different towns; each assesses property for its tax rolls. Tax rates changed with equalization rates set by the state to account for the differences among municipalities between their total assessed and market values.

The equalization rate for New Scotland, for example, is 100 percent, meaning property is assessed at full market value. At the other end of the spectrum, the equalization rate for Westerlo is 1.01 percent, meaning, since Westerlo hasn’t had a townwide property evaluation in decades, parcels are assessed at a fraction of their full market value. This means tax rates — what individual property owners pay — for New Scotland are the lowest and Westerlo’s are the highest. The other towns fall in between, with equalization rates ranging from 61 percent (in Rensselaerville) to 83 percent (in Wright).

In the BKW school district, the tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value for 2013-14 is:

— $30.01 in Berne, or 1.89 percent higher than last year;

— $32.44 in Knox, or 1.40 percent lower than last year;

— $20.11 in New Scotland, or 1.89 percent higher than last year;

— $32.97 in Rensselaerville, or 0.22 percent higher than last year;

— $1,991.07 in Westerlo, or 2.15 percent lower in than last year;

— $28.73 in Middleburgh, or 1.02 percent lower than last year; and

— $24.23 in Wright, or 3.02 percent lower than last year.

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