Bridgehampton School Needs More Money

Bridgehampton expansion goes back to voters
Christine Sampson

Nearly two years after winning approval for a $24.7 million expansion and renovation project, the Bridgehampton School District will ask voters next Thursday for permission to borrow an additional $4.7 million to bring the project to fruition.

A forum on the project and next Thursday’s vote will be held Thursday at 6 in the school gym. The vote the following week will take place from 2 to 8 p.m., also in the gym. 

At Thursday’s forum, the district’s architect, John A. Grillo of Port Jefferson, will be on hand along with Nick Amoruso, Bob Caliendo, and Chuck Quinn of School Construction Consultants, the construction management firm, and Paul Grosser of P.W. Grosser Consulting, which is overseeing LEED certification for the project. They will help make the case for the additional borrowing and discuss progress to date, as well as the installation of a geothermal heating and cooling system (paid for with capital reserve funds). 

With a building permit in hand from the New York State Department of Education as of June 1 and some work set to begin over the summer, the district held a groundbreaking ceremony in early June. However, after soliciting bids from general, electrical, mechanical, and plumbing contractors, the school board found that even the lowest of them were higher than the district had budgeted for. The project, with some renovations scaled back ever so slightly, was put out to bid again in July, and again the bids all came in higher than budgeted, by nearly $4 million. 

Heeding its architect’s advice, the board decided to go back to voters to authorize the additional spending, plus a 20-percent contingency. 

“On the second set of bids, the architect actually removed renovation of the existing gymnasium,” Robert Hauser, the district’s superintendent, said yesterday. The fact that the bids still came in over budget at that point indicated that additional bonding would be the way to go. 

The project, first approved by voters in December 2016, will add more than 35,000 square feet to the school. The building is to get a new regulation-size gym, locker rooms, and cafeteria, as well as new science, technology, and music rooms. Part of the current gym is to become an auditorium and the remainder a new school library. The addition will allow the prekindergarten to be moved into the main building and out of 40-year-old modular classrooms on the west side of the school. Renovations are to create new two new English classrooms and one for math. 

Ultimately the building, which is over 80 years old, will more than double in size. 

Separately, in May 2017, Bridgehampton voters approved the establishment of a reserve fund to pay for a geothermal heating and cooling system, and in October 2017 authorized spending from that fund for the geothermal system and other repairs. 

The district had originally hoped construction might begin in May 2018, but with the building permit not in hand until June, bids had to be solicited at the height of the school-construction season, Mr. Hauser said. Should voters approve the bond next Thursday, the project will have to be put out to bid a third time, as the most recent bids were only good for 45 days. “Summer is very busy with the trades,” Mr. Hauser said. Now, “we’ll get hopefully a more favorable response in terms of the number of contractors who bid,” and the price they offer, he said.

Before the second set of bids were rejected, the district had knocked down a portable building holding pupil personnel services offices. Those offices are now located in a temporary trailer. 

Mr. Hauser is hopeful that the community will support the bond. “We’ve been listening and answering questions from the community and parents and staff and even students,” he said. “People want to see this project completed and they understand that this extra amount is needed.” 

The additional borrowing would add an estimated $40 a year to a tax bill for a house assessed at $2 million, Mr. Hauser said.

If the bond is passed and work can begin in November, as he hopes, the project could be complete by June of 2020. 

Those not yet registered to vote in the Bridgehampton School District who would like to cast ballots next Thursday have their final chance to do so tomorrow from 4 to 8 p.m. at the school. Proof of residency in the district is required, and people may not also be registered to vote elsewhere. Absentee ballot applications are available in the district office. Those wishing to receive an absentee ballot by mail have until today to request one.

Absentee ballots are also available at the district office through Wednesday. In order to be counted, completed absentee ballots must be received by the school by mail or in person no later than 5 p.m. next Thursday.