SOMERS, N.Y. - Somers’ quarter-billion-dollar investment in school buildings and grounds got passing grades last week in a state-mandated exam by an outside expert.
But the expert, architect Walter Hauser, also told the school board that age and routine wear and tear have taken a toll and that repairs are needed.
“Your buildings are in very good shape, especially the additions completed in the last 10 years,” Hauser told board members at their March 15 meeting at the middle school. Nevertheless, he recommended an extended list of repairs and upgrades, especially of leaking roofs and existing heating, ventilation and air-conditioning—commonly called HVAC—systems.
While Hauser’s remarks were billed as a report on the results of his state-mandated inspection, they also effectively served as expert testimony on behalf of a proposed $13.6 million capital-construction bond. Residents will go to the polls May 17 to vote on the bond as well as a proposed $86.8 million school budget and three school board seats.
The bulk of the bond, unveiled at the board’s March 3 meeting, would address the issues raised by Hauser, with more than $10 million earmarked for repairs and replacement of all four schoolhouse rooftops as well as HVAC upgrades. Details of the proposed bond are spelled out on the Somers Central School District website, somersschools.org.
Hauser, a principal in the Mount Kisco firm KG+D Architects, said he wanted to begin transmitting the results of his building inspection to the State Education Department (SED) next month.
Under the inspection regimen, required by SED every five years, a professional architect and engineer visually examine all the buildings in the school district, rating every system in the structures either satisfactory or unsatisfactory. “In the eyes of New York State,” Hauser said, “those are technical terms.”
He said the KG+D team finished its review last November. “We really went through all of your buildings—through, in, out, and around all of them—up on the roof and in basements to look at every single component,” Hauser said.
“The idea [behind the exam] is it’s a full, comprehensive, visual inspection,” he said. “We’re not going through and breaking walls or testing materials. It’s everything that we can see with our eyes.”
Since then, Hauser said, he’s been meeting with administration officials to discuss his findings and review the district’s five-year capital plan. That document, which must be updated every five years and reviewed annually, “serves as a guideline for the district, to help execute work and organize in a manner, with priorities assigned to the work,” Hauser said.
“You have over $276 million worth of assets,” he told the school board. Long-range planning was meant, Hauser said, to assure that money was spent on work that’s critically needed “before you go and do something that may be a really nice upgrade but not as essential to maintain your buildings.”
Kenneth Crowley, the district’s assistant superintendent for business, said the bond would primarily finance such critically needed repairs, such as roofs, air-handling units and HVAC systems.