Ferrisburgh delays $1.5 million school building plan

FERRISBURGH — Ferrisburgh Central School officials have decided not to try to shoehorn the recently approved $1.5 million upgrades to the school into this summer, instead opting to plan the work for next summer.
FCS board chairwoman Adela Langrock said board members had initially hoped the project — including replacing the school’s failing heating system, installing a new ventilation system and windows, replacing stained ceiling tiles and rotting eaves, and upgrading its electrical system — could be done without interfering with education this fall.
But as they learned more about the bidding process, its projected timetable and the needs of workers during the job, Langrock said, they realized that goal could not be met. 
“Given the level of engineering, and the coordination of all of it, it’s not feasible for it to be completed this summer … It would be better to do it next year, to move in the first day of (next) summer and complete it with everyone off site,” she said. “We just felt like it would be very disruptive for the next academic year if we started this summer.”
By the time bids could be sent out, sorted out and accepted, and then work begun, it would be August, Langrock said. Students would have to be shielded from construction debris and dust, noise would be an issue, and workers would need the equivalent of four empty classrooms to work on at any given time — space the school does not have.
“The amount of disruption for our program would be astronomical … We just have nowhere to put these kids,” Langrock said.
One piece of the project can probably be done this summer and fall without interfering with students and teachers, she said. Workers will install new roofing, a move that should put an end to the school’s plague of leaks and help control heating costs even without a new boiler and radiators.
Plans had called for ventilation units on the roof, which would have stalled the roofing work until the rest of the project could be done. But engineers decided that there was enough room between the roof and ceilings for the units, Langrock said.
Despite the threat of inflation, FCS board members believe the contingency figure built into the $1.5 million project should cover increased costs. Langrock said officials could in a pinch also tap a $30,000 capital reserve fund, or if absolutely necessary do the major parts of the project and leave a few windows to be replaced at a later date.
They will be tracking bids and expenses closely, Langrock said, but are confident overall in the figure, in part because the sagging economy could result in competitive bids.
“What we’re looking at is that we should be able to do this, and do this in the amount we voted on,” she said.
The school’s problematic boiler is more of an X factor, however. Still, one central issue was identified and for the most part solved this past winter: Experts figured out condensation was building up in pipes, backing up into the boiler and causing it to shut down.
After that diagnosis, at least daily visits by a plumbing and heating specialist were no longer needed, Langrock said. 
“One of the major problems we’ve identified and worked on,” she said.
But board members admit they cannot be certain the boiler will function perfectly for another winter without another unexpected day off. But Langrock said compared to the certainty of disruption of the coming school year, that postponement of the project was still the better choice.
“We are incredibly concerned we could have a boiler failure this winter. But we have people coming to look at it as well as the people who have already looked at it,” Langrock said. “I will admit fingers are crossed.”
Meanwhile, construction experts will come to FCS this week to begin opening walls, taking down ceiling tiles and pulling up carpets to get a better handle on what will be needed to complete the work in a timely manner next summer.
With a year to plan for the work carefully, Langrock said she and the other board members are confident the work can be done next summer without disrupting the start of the 2009-2010 school year.
How certain?
“Absolutely,” Langrock said. “Absolutely.”

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