The Kingston school board is poised to vote on whether to seek public support to renovate the former Frank L. Meagher Elementary School at its next meeting, scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 16.
District Superintendent Paul Padalino said he expects to have fully updated information on the project, which would include moving the administrative headquarters from the Cioni Building on Crown Street into Meagher on Wynkoop Place, shortly; another proposal under consideration would include an educational component, though trustees have yet to settle on whether renovated classrooms would be used for a universal pre-kindergarten hub, alternative education program or something as yet unknown.
Padalino said he expects to hear from Albany-based CAS Architecture with a pre-referendum timeline for various options at Meagher.
“I know by our next meeting I’ll be able to provide the board with the language for the actual referendum, as well as what I think would be a good date that we should look at moving forward to get construction done,” Padalino said.
While school officials thought a February public referendum made the most sense, school board member James Michael said it should sync up with the district’s budget vote in May.
“I have a problem with the timing of the referendum,” he said. “I think it’s too close to each other. The cost of the elections is $30,000. I think we should make it for May.”
Padalino said waiting until May would make it unlikely work could start on Meagher until well past summer.
“I think the architects will give us a better timeline, but I think the idea is there’s a referendum in the winter, we get our bids together by the spring and have people actually working by the summer,” he said. “If we do it in May, we basically miss the summer, which is a big portion obviously of the work time they can do in good weather.”
The cost of renovating Meagher is unclear at present; the last time figures were discussed in detail was during a school board meeting held in late August, when Padalino said it would cost around $6 million to renovate Meagher for use solely as an administrative center, with the price tag rising to roughly $7.1 million if the renovations included preparation for a pre-K hub. He added that going with the former option wouldn’t mean they couldn’t add pre-K or anything else to the facility later as the administration would only use around half of the existing building. But stripped down, less expensive versions of the proposals have also been discussed.
School officials have confirmed that the project would receive more funding if it includes an educational component, though where that money would come from varies depending upon the configuration of the project. It’s likely any project would have to tap into the district’s capital reserve fund for between $2.34 and $2.68 million, with other funding available either through state building aid or the Smart School Bond Act. There is also the expectation that money from the sale of Cioni would be used for the move.
Padalino said that when the district is ready to seek bids on Cioni, it could seek to minimize the lease-back costs which were part of the pair of offers in 2014.
“Just something to remember, if and when we do decide to list the building … we set the parameters within what bids are acceptable, the Board sets them,” Padalino said. “So, if a certain amount of time that we need to stay here in this building, at a certain rate, for certain considerations, we can write that right in, and if people are interested in bidding for the building, they do it under those terms.”
Trustee Suzanne Jordan requested an update on what it might cost to renovate Cioni as well.
“I just think one of the things that would interest me … and might interest the public as well, is putting it against what we would have to spend to bring this building up to speed,” she said. “And I think without that piece it’s very hard to justify, even though I think it’s a very good idea to build additional classroom space and I like the classroom space there; it just opens up opportunities that we don’t have here. To be informed fully, we have a responsibility to kind of look at what it would cost for this to go through the renovations that we need.”
Voters authorized the district to sell the Cioni Building in 2012 by a margin of 3,642-852. At the time, the cost of renovating the facility was estimated at around $3 million.
Originally opened in 1874 Meagher was expanded in 1917, 1961, and 1996; its current size is 31,600-square feet on a 3.6-acre lot that may make it difficult to expand any further. Meagher was shuttered in 2012.