Bricks and mortar: Onteora buildings in need of repair

The Onteora Central School District is in need of approximately $6.5 million worth of repairs or upgrades with the heaviest costs, around $4 million stemming from the Middle/High School, according to a recently completed state mandated five-year conditions survey. At a recent school board meeting two representatives from Mosaic architects, Nick Waer and Scott Swenson presented the findings.

The district’s state aid would cover 30 percent of the cost and there is approximately $3 million already set aside in repair reserves, and another million in capital reserves. To release this money and ask for additional funds, the district would require voter approval. District business administrator Victoria McLaren stressed that time is vital in this case, since there is talk of State level of aid ratios decreasing, including the possibility of it being eliminated altogether.

In a separate presentation, another approximately $2.7 million in energy-related expenditures was identified as eligible to be handled with an Energy Performance Contract, which, because of the nature of the contract, would not be subject to voter approval.


In that meeting, Richard Kohrs from Ameresco, an energy performance company, described a process whereby materials involved in the energy repairs are not paid for up front, but are reimbursed to his company from the savings the district would accrue from the upgraded equipment. He estimated that the district would save $171,000 per year.

The district Facilities committee has been working with Ameresco, who earlier last year conducted a preliminary energy audit and concluded that the district is eligible for a tax-exempt lease. If purchased through Ameresco, the company would guarantee a cost neutral payback through energy savings.

Kohrs said as a side to the money savings, “this program is going to save you about, 1,500 pounds of Co2 and that’s your carbon footprint.” He compared it to not driving 138 cars per year, or not burning 78,000 gallons of gasoline.

With a completed conditions survey, Ameresco next step is to hone in on work needed.

Officials for months have been pointing out that Phoenicia Elementary is in dire need of a new boiler and hot water system. No price was given since it would fall under an energy performance contract. Swenson said, “These are all things typical of an aging building, but since there is an energy component, you can most likely receive funding through a performance contract.”

Other EPC eligible repairs or upgrades would be, temperature controls systems, lights at Phoenicia school, heat conversion, pipe insulation, hot water heaters, bus engine heaters. Bennett elementary heating in the Kindergarten rooms are eligible for an EPC that would replace old costly electric heaters and hook it up to the main heating system.


Other repairs with price tags

As far as the $6.5 million in non-energy related renovations, the two Mosaic architects explained that the most costly upgrades stem from the Middle/High School. A separate high voltage transformer with a 13,200 volt line that runs under the building is, “very unusual, and one of the highest priorities items that I certainly identified with,” said Swenson. Because of the difficult location, if it were to fail, it would leave the building without power for a long period of time. “This is our main concern, since it’s an original component (from the 1950s) to the district that we were very surprised to see.” Swenson said the transformer would be moved closer to the building, with a lower voltage appropriate for a school, with a switch panel and that the district would “abandon that line that is under the building and disconnect it.” The cost would be approximately $400,000. The aging piped heating and cooling system, a project that has been long talked about would need to be replaced at a price that would exceed $1 million.

Phoenicia and Woodstock would need approximately $1 million worth of repairs for each school. Bennett Elementary would need very little work, though still around $300,000 in total. The relative low sum is due to work done from a past voter approved expansion and renovation bond.

All buildings throughout the district shared common themes when it came to repairs. Most windows, parking lot, playground, exterior walls, stairs and sidewalks have all deteriorated. “This is typical across your buildings, this brick condition,” Waer said while showing a slide of the damage, “As you can see here, the mortar actually squeezes out and the theory is you’ve had reinforcing in the brick that’s gotten wet over time that pushes the mortar out. I’ve not seen that in a lot of districts and you have it in all three buildings and they’re built at different times, so something interesting happened in this area.”

School Superintendent Dr. Phyllis Spiegel-McGill summed it up. “Other than Bennett, the buildings have not been worked on in the district.” Over the span of ten years district school upgrades included piecemeal repairs as equipment began to break down. The boiler at Woodstock Elementary and just recently the boiler at the bus garage were replaced. The Middle/High School, Woodstock and West Hurley elementary (before it closed) had roof repairs. A new water system was installed at the Boiceville site due to high levels of Manganese found in the water. All schools except for Phoenicia Elementary had lighting upgrades completed in the summer of 2011, after having received a grant for $221,000. The grant came through Central Hudson and does not cover the town of Phoenicia — however Phoenicia Elementary is eligible for an energy efficient lighting upgrade through a performance contract.++


There is one comment

  1. Christi Villano

    Electrical voltage is something we take for granted – at least until we travel abroad. Voltage converters and voltage transformers allow you to operate your electric devices safely in foreign countries where the electrical outlet standards are different than your own home country. They have the same purpose – converting electricity from one voltage to another – but their function is slightly different. Some of your electrical devices don’t care which one you choose. Others, such as your cell phone, laptop or iPad, will be very unhappy if you try to plug them into the wrong one. `

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