Tuesday, October 26, 2021

GF School plans $29-million ‘tax neutral’ project, includes new football turf plus lights

By Zander Frost, Chronicle Staff Writer

The Glens Falls City School District is planning a $29-million project whose primary focus is improving the Middle School, but it includes lighting and replacing the turf on the football field, Superintendent Paul Jenkins tells The Chronicle.

He expects the school board to vote on authorizing the proposal at its October 18 meeting.

The public would vote December 14, in person at Sanford Street School.

“We’re going out with it as a tax neutral project so there’s no additional cost to taxpayers,” Mr. Jenkins said.

He said “we have debt from previous projects that’s coming off the books. So…what we’ve done the last two projects, is that debt doesn’t reduce. We just keep that and put that towards the project.”

“But anything that is additional, we use our fund balance, and of course state aid is included in all that.” The state aid amounts to 75 percent, Mr. Jenkins said.

“So right now the estimate for the overall project is roughly, I think we’re looking at $29 million for the total. But that’s with contingencies built in and escalation costs, and all those things because we don’t know what the bids will be.”

Mr. Jenkins adds, “Every project I’ve worked on, we’ve always come away under budget — once it’s said and done and the bids are in and the work is done.

“But, when we put these things together, the architects put in that escalation, cost and contingencies, in case we run into asbestos somewhere that we didn’t expect, or we run into an issue that is larger than anticipated, or just building materials are more expensive….

“The bulk of the project is really focused on the Middle School…because that’s the only building that we haven’t done any real renovation work on since it was built.

“There are ceiling tiles that need to be replaced. We have a large group-instruction room that has to be renovated, we have windows, doors. We have the air handler units in classrooms that need to be replaced, we have science rooms in the middle school that haven’t been renovated since the building was built back in the 80’s.”

At “Jackson Heights, we have to replace the roof” and the cupola “has to be repaired and then painted and fixed up.”

But the football field behind the high school is one of the first things they’ll work on. “We have to replace the turf because it’s at this point 14 years old,” Mr. Jenkins said. “And the general life of those turf fields is usually 10 to 12. So we’ve been lucky because we haven’t overused it, that we got a few more years out of it.”

The field is seeing increased demand, he said. “What really sparked that was last year…the sports seasons changed. And in the fall, we didn’t have soccer, field hockey or football,” due to the pandemic.

“We had that in, we called ‘Fall Two,’ starting in March. We couldn’t use Morse Field because the snow was still on the field. So a lot of our fall teams were able to use the turf, and kids liked it.”

Mr. Jenkins said that’s where the lighting of the field comes in.

“Right now,” he said, “we just use the turf for football and lacrosse. And track and field uses it as well…But we had a lot more teams utilizing it last year, and the kids really enjoyed it. So the only way to expand it is to light it up.”

The last time field lights were proposed, there was neighborhood resistance.

Does it remain? “We have neighbors who live around the turf who are for it,” Mr. Jenkins said. “And some that said the last time they didn’t want it.”

He said the lighting now is much different than before — inexpensive to operate and much less light spilling off the field.

“It’s not the same technology that it was back in the 80’s on East Field, where the whole place is lit up,” Mr. Jenkins said. He mentioned a neighbor who complained about an exterior school light shining into his home. Mr. Jenkins said the problem was remedied with new technology that did not generate “spill.”

“It’s the same thing with the lights on the turf field,” Mr. Jenkins said.

“When you look at those overhead pictures of these turf fields where they have lights…you can basically see the turf is all lit up. But two feet off the turf, it’s almost pitch black, depending on where they have the light showing.

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