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School Board Questions Recommendations on Safety Measures During Greenacres Construction

sound-monitoringFirst the vote on the proposed bond was in 2017 – now it's 2018. Then it included a large cafeteria at the Scarsdale Middle School plus learning commons at all the elementary schools. Those are out now. But what's in? Will there be air conditioning?

Many people have told me that the lengthy discussions about the proposed $67mm Scarsdale Schools bond for a renovation and expansion at Greenacres and other facilities updates has gotten too difficult to track. With weekly changes to the proposal, it's a lot to monitor. So for anyone who doesn't have the patience to read the emails or watch the November 13 Board of Education meeting online, here's the latest on the proposed 2018 bond referendum.

Noise and Air Monitoring, Security and Modular Classrooms:

The biggest surprise of the meeting was the Board's vote on safety and security measures and modular classrooms during the construction at Greenacres School. These extra precautions during construction were recommended by the Greenacres Building Committee, the District Wide Facilities Committees and the school administration, and favored by Greenacres parents. The air and noise monitoring was recommended by Park East, the Construction Management firm, to provide reassurance that excess noise would not hamper learning and that construction dust would not harm children in the school. The security people were supposed to manage the movement of construction vehicles that will be parked on the black top across the street from the school.

However with only four votes for the noise monitoring, three for air monitoring and none for the trailers, these items may not be included in the plans. Board members Chris Morin and Pam Fuehrer who served on the Greenacres Building Committee objected to the measures. Fuehrer called the monitoring "superfluous" and nixed the trailers citing other contingencies that could be used if classrooms became unusable. About the trailers, Morin said, "I haven't heard anyone say this is a good idea. ...I don't think there is any scenario where these would be used. There is excess capacity in the rest of the district. If needed, the kids could meet at Greenacres and be bussed to another school." Morin likened this recommendation to a decision by General Electric to purchase a second corporate jet to follow the first one. He read from an article calling this "millions of dollars recklessly wasted." He called the proposed modular classrooms a "blight on the field" and said the funds for the trailers would be wasted. He also said that including Including unnecessary measures would make it impossible to do other work at the district.

The Board also questioned the needed for extra security to monitor construction vehicles and equipment, as well as the cost to air condition the school library and multipurpose rooms. The air conditioning was proposed because the windows in these rooms will have to remain closed during the project and there will be no ventilation. The District Wide building committee recommended ceiling fans for multipurpose rooms, however in this case, without fresh air coming in through the windows, the fans would have little effect.

Bathroom Renovations and Parking:

The Board did give approval to renovations of the toilet rooms, but did not specify how many, at a cost of $530,865. They also left in $597,498 for 20 additional parking spaces. These were originally proposed for Huntington Road but the Village has expressed concern about their location as the cars could block emergency vehicles. Another space will need to be found.

All told, if the air, noise and security monitors and the modular classrooms were eliminated, it would decrease the cost by about $2.3 million.

The Board had originally said that they would follow the recommendations of these special committees that were appointed by the administration, so it was surprising that they would vote against these recommended measures.

Cafeteria:

Another item that came under scrutiny at the meeting was the proposed cafeteria at Greenacres School. In response to questions about adding lunch service at all the elementary schools the administration has convened a district-wide committee to examine food service, however it's first meeting was on November 13, the date of the Board meeting. The cost of the cafeteria at Greenacres is estimated at about $2.3 million, and the board was mixed on including it in the plans.

Scott Silberfein said that he was not sure the Board was ready to make a decision on cafeterias, without the benefit of more research. He noted that a multipurpose room was now under construction at Heathcote, without a cafeteria. Dr. Hagerman said that the need for food service had been raised by school principals and building committees and indicated that the district is moving toward lunch programs at all schools. He added that a kitchen at Greenacres could be used as a "buddy kitchen" where food would be prepared to provide hot lunches at other elementary schools. Lee Maude said the kitchen could be considered an alternate. A vote by the board on the kitchen found that four were in favor of it with three against, and it was put on a list for further discussion.

However, by a vote of 6 – 1, the board approved the balance of the Greenacres renovation as proposed.

Air Conditioning:

A district-wide facilities committee recommended that air conditioning be installed in all school classrooms at a cost of $23.94 million. They also recommended that the district install ceiling fans for large group areas such as multipurpose rooms at a cost of $1.25mm. The school administration backed the plan to propose these costs in a second bond referendum, contingent on the passage of the $67 million bond for Greenacres renovation, facilities work and security vestibules.

The Board had a lengthy discussion about including air conditioning in the first bond, proposing it in a second one or putting it off until a later date. Art Rublin proposed deferring some of the facilities work such as roofs and boilers to future general operating budgets to allow funds for air conditioning in the first bond. Others were concerned that adding air conditioning to the first bond would challenge tax neutrality and risk the passage of funding for the work at Greenacres and facilities needs. Others said that the board needed further discussion and study of air conditioning before giving it the green light for this bond.

Ultimately four board members voted to support the original $67 million bond referendum without air conditioning and agreed to continue the discussion at a future meeting.

What else:

Throughout the meeting, Board member Chris Morin questioned the process by which the bond proposal had been crafted. Discussing Greenacres he said, "I think we had a single proposal for a very large addition – at best, I think it received tepid support for a strained compromise. There's an awful lot that made us have to scrutinize that plan. The need for that design has not fallen into place. I don't think anyone agreed we needed vast new classroom facilities. Why eight classrooms? Are these necessary?" About air conditioning he said, "I think people in Greenacres would rather have an air conditioned gym then the other stuff we are loading into this plan. I am concerned about the process. I don't think these items have been fully vetted. Would you prefer empty trailers when you could have a renovated gym and a middle school comfort station?"

Community Comments:

In the public comments portion of the meeting Bob Berg spoke against the air conditioning. He commended the Board for their open discussion and debate on capitol issues, saying, "It's the right way to proceed." But he said, "I think the air conditioning is a mistake – we don't live in Miami, Phoenix or Texas ... We're talking about 3-4 horrible days a year and a week or two where you need a fan. You will get into trouble with the community who sees this as an unneeded luxury. The other work is important to do. It will muddy the waters to bring in this AC. It is an invitation to disaster. Do it after you have this bond."

Mary Beth Evans Chair of LWVS Study Committee said, "Our committee would like more details on the rationale for air conditioning." She also asked if future spatial needs for the district had been incorporated into a strategic plan.

Diane Greenwald from 2 Oak Lane said, "I actually do agree with Chris. I have heard people say that they could handle the heat in school, saying it was good enough for me so its good enough for them. That mentality is the mentality of a dying society. We have to do better for our children. If you believe in it – do it! I heard people say we have to stick with this (plan). But don't stick with a mistake just because you took a long time making it. There are some ideas that might need to be readjusted. Air conditioning is a good priority. Maybe it's time to fix the process and getting the priorities right."

Commenting on the board discussion about the safety and security measures at Greenacres, Greenacres resident Jon Krisbergh said, "Last night was nothing short of shocking. The Board is literally (and admittedly) ignoring the recommendations from its Administration, the Building Committees, its architect, its construction manager and independent experts from Mt. Sinai Hospital. My guess is that last night's meeting made the work of their SEQRA expert that much more difficult. I do not know how they plan to satisfy the SEQRA requirements to identify and mitigate environmental and safety risks if they ignore all mitigation suggestions from their own advisers, experts and the community."

Letter to the Editor: Help Ensure Children's Safety During the Proposed Greenacres School Renovation

asbestosThis letter was sent to Scarsdale10583.com by the Greenacres Elementary School Task Force:

The Greenacres Elementary Task Force is seeking your support in the retention of independent experts on the health, safety, and environmental concerns of the proposed renovation of Greenacres Elementary School.

We are a group of concerned parents whose children will be in the building during the renovation, who recently submitted an independent experts' report to the Scarsdale School Board identifying the potential health, safety and educational risks of the proposed renovation of Greenacres Elementary. Under New York State Law, the District must address the concerns raised in the report and mitigate the risks to ensure the safety of the students during the demolition and construction of the school building.

By submitting the report, with opinions from an environmental health specialist, a noise expert, a traffic consultant, an air quality consulting firm, and a neuropsychologist, the Task Force has offered independent oversight into the District's planning process that emphasizes student health and safety. While the District continues to discuss implementation of the renovation, we believe that the involvement of these experts has already helped to increase dialogue about mitigation strategies and ways to protect the children. These strategies include:

• A commitment by the District to do all interior work during the summer months,

• The use of some temporary/modular classrooms as a contingency if the proposed work cannot be completed in a safe manor,

• A plan to use independent noise, air quality and safety monitors throughout the project, and
• The addition of air filters and some air conditioning to allow windows to be closed during construction to avoid infiltration of dust and noise.

As you can imagine, the experts cost money to hire and we ask that you support the safety of the children by making a donation to support this community effort. Since our mission is for a charitable tax-exempt purpose, all deductions will be fully deductible under the law.

Contributions can be made online at:

http://bit.ly/greenacrestaskforce

Under the SEQRA review process, private citizens have a short window of time to ensure their comments are included in the public record and addressed. On behalf of the entire community, we are advocating for open and thoughtful dialogue, a clear understanding of the scope and parameters of the project, oversight on spending taxpayers' money, and laser focus on the health and safety of the children.

A copy of the report can be found here:If you have any questions, please email us at admin@greenacrestaskforce.org.

We thank you for your support.

Target Bond Referendum Date Pushed Back to January

january-24-2018The proposed $66 million bond referendum for the Scarsdale Schools, previously targeted for December 14, 2017 will be pushed back until next year, allowing time for a Greenacres Neighborhood Association Meeting on Thursday October 19, a public forum on November 6, review of SEQRA findings on November 13 leading to a board vote on the resolution on November 27.

At the October 16 meeting of the Board of Education, instead of a Board vote on the proposed referendum, Assistant Superintendent gave an update on recommendations from the Greenacres Building Committee on the proposed project at Greenacres.

He announced some proposed changes to the scope of the project based on the outcome of committee discussions.

Here are the recommendations for additions to the work:

Additional air monitoring during construction: $140K

Noise monitoring during construction: $140 K


Construction of 20 spots for parallel parking in front of the school on Huntington Road: $597K


The renovation of nine small bathrooms in the classrooms and two large hall bathrooms: $530K


Temporary HEPA filtration for air intake: $35K


Temporary air conditioning in the library and old multi-purpose rooms: $169K


Security monitor: $140K

The addition of six temporary or modular classrooms to be built on the field across the street from the school. This would allow two grades to move out of the school if need be. These could be purchased at a cost of $1.92mm or possibly leased for less. Leasing would cost $475,000 for set up (in the bond) and approximately another $400,000 for rent that would come out of the school's annual budget. These costs will be confirmed by Mr. Mattey.

If the district does purchased the modulars, there might be possible uses for these structures after the construction is complete.

A second committee has been meeting about air conditioning and will make a ceilingfanrecommendation to the administration on the installation of air conditioning in district schools soon. They are focusing on whether or not air conditioning should be installed, and if so, to what extent. They are also examining the use of other cooling methods such as ceiling fans.

Mattey also announced that testing for asbestos and lead has been done at Greenacres, and testing for air quality and mold will be done over the next few weeks. No asbestos was found, and out of 509 locations tested for lead, 15 spots were found. This will allow remediation to be done before construction begins.

Board members asked questions about air testing, asbestos abatement and lead. Mattey explained that though five or six areas of the school have been previously tested for mold, the entire building had not been tested so this was being done now as people continue to smell "mustiness." A board member questioned the decision not to replace the water and sanitary pipes in the building but was told that filters were in use for lead and that the sanitary pipes did not need to be replaced.

They debated the necessity for the modular units and discussed the options to purchase or lease them.

They also discussed the proposed energy performance contract which will allow the district to spend an additional $10.8 million on energy saving infrastructure needs such as boilers. The cost savings from these improvements will be guaranteed by an outside company and paid back to the district over the course of the contract.

Here are the most current numbers for the bond proposal:

Infrastructure:                   $29,541,461
Security Vestibules:               $708,246
Greenacres Renovation
and Expansion                  $33,240,430
Temporary Modulars           $1,500,000
Total Proposed Bond        $64,990,137

Energy Performance Contract: $10,862,686

Total Combined: $75,852,823

The Board of Education will meet again on Monday October 23 at 6:30 pm for a comprehensive review of the scope of proposed bond projects.

Greenacres Elementary School Task Force Calls for Full SEQRA Review of Proposed Elementary School Construction

craneA group of 400 concerned Scarsdale residents called the Greenacres Elementary Task Force has retained the law firm of Zarin and Steinmetz who notified the Scarsdale Board of Education about their safety concerns in regards to the proposed construction at Greenacres Elementary School.

In a letter dated October 4, 2017 they pose comments on the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA) in regards to the project. They ask that the district incorporate "all measures necessary to guarantee the health and safety of the School community. This includes evaluating all potential measures to keep students, teachers, staff and parents out of "harm's way" during construction, such as the use of temporary off-site modular classrooms."

The lawyers say the project plans contain minimal details about protective measures and that all experts retained concluded "that there is insufficient information to determine whether the community will be adequately protected from potential dangers associated with the large-scale renovation process."

The letter calls for testing for asbestos and lead prior to construction, as well as details on how the interior work can be completed in two 10-week summer vacation periods. It calls for the district to take measures to limit the infiltration of dust into classrooms by installing air conditioning. It cites concerns about parking, traffic and children's access to the playground across the street during and after the construction. It asks the district how they will address sustained increases in noise during construction.

The lawyers found that based on the information released by the district there is insufficient "Record before your Board to issue a SEQRA determination of significance." It asks the district to undertake the necessary studies, to identify potential impacts and develop a project design that addresses these impacts "through alternative or mitigation measures."

The letter goes on to document the risks of environmental toxins to children and cites cases to support their claims. Among these potential risks are lead, asbestos, mold and harmful dust. It also calls on the district to do a traffic study to analyze the impact of the construction on the neighborhood, to identify the safest and most efficient routes for the construction equipment and to analyze the placement of the staging area. It also calls for the implementation of safety procedures during drop off and pick up.

Construction noise could also have significant impacts on the neighborhood and students inside the school. The letter cites a study that found that increased noise results in delays in reading comprehension for children and provides guidelines for safe noise levels. It also calls for a detailed construction plan for SEQRA designation.

The 13-page letter ends by saying, "We hope that the District will recognize the serious risks identified herein and, as required under SEQRA, diligently study and pursue the proper safety and mitigation measures to address the deficiencies in your Record for the Project to date before moving ahead with the bond referendum on the project."

The Scarsdale Schools administration recently moved the proposed bond referendum vote back from December, 2017 to January, 2018 and announced that asbestos, air quality and mold testing were being done at Greenacres. No results are available as yet. But perhaps this letter was the reason for the delay – as time was needed for a full SEQRA review.

Read the letter and experts' reports here

League of Women Voters Highlights Local Issues at Annual Coffee

LWVS1Scarsdale's chapter of the League of Women Voters held their annual membership coffee on Monday October 2nd and drew a good crowd of civic-minded residents. The league seeks to "empower better communities by informed participation in government." To that end, the league selects issues of interest to the local community, studies them, asks questions and writes recommendations based on their conclusions.

On Monday the group heard updates on three topics affecting the Village, presented by an all –female group of trustees and Village officials including Village Trustee Deb Pekarek, Assistant Village Manager Ingrid Richards, Village Planner Elizabeth Marrinan, Village Trustee Jane Veron as well as former Mayor Jon Mark.

Deb Pekarek explained that changes to the Village code regarding trees are under consideration to safeguard existing trees and require replacement trees or a contribution to a tree fund if replacement trees cannot be planted on the existing property. While the current code calls for replacements for trees larger than 36" (DBH – diameter at breast height), the new code lowers that to 24" DBH and also requires replacements for groups of smaller trees totaling 24" DBH. The new code would expand the list of protected trees that cannot be removed. According to Richards, current Village staff can handle the record keeping and enforcement for the new laws and no additional staff would be required. The proposed law is being studied by the Village Trustees.LWVS2

Former Village Mayor Jon Mark is now chairing the Freightway Steering Committee who is studying the best use for 2.4 acres of land on the west side of the Metro North train tracks in Scarsdale. The site includes the Freightway Parking lot and two open lots. Mark gave a summary of the work of the committee who has retained Planning Consultants to help to define the elements of a mixed use development project to be built in place of the Freightway Garage. Toward that end they have done some surveys, conducted tours and are currently holding a series of public workshops with stakeholders to refine ideas for a transit-oriented development project. Ideally it would include parking, residences, retail and restaurants to increase foot traffic in Scarsdale and help to revitalize the downtown area. They are holding their next workshop on Thursday October 12 at 7 pm, and the public is invited to attend.

Trustee Jane Veron, a former president of the League of Women Voters discussed her work to revitalize downtown Scarsdale. She is working with Village landlords to find tenants for many of the vacant stores downtown and drawing residents to the Village with attractions like the outdoor art exhibit in Chase Park and the farmers market on Thursdays. She announced that progress is being made. Trio Salon has opened on Christie Place, Popojito Mexican will open on metersChristie Place later this month and I Am More, a women's boutique has opened on Spencer Place.

In order to ease parking downtown, the Village is now conducting a test of new parking meters that permit users to pay by credit card. The test is underway with four types of single and multi-space meters. Residents are invited to go downtown and try the meters and give their feedback to the Village at metertest@Scarsdale.com.

Another step to reduce the vacancies downtown is to convert retail and office space to residential. Veron reported that Village property owner Rush Wilson has already converted some of the office space above Zachys Liquor Store to residential and will also convert some of the vacant retail space on Harwood Court into residences as well as there is more demand for living space than stores.

Learn more about the work of the League of Women Voters of Scarsdale at www.LWVS.org or email Janice Staff at Janice.starr@gmail.com to find out how you can get involved.

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