Project Hearing Attracts Few

FULTON, NY – If residents in the Fulton city school district have opinions about the proposed $23.7 million capital improvement project, they aren’t sharing.

Aside from a group of district employees, not even a handful of residents attended a public hearing that was held on the project Wednesday evening at G. Ray Bodley High School. Regardless, district officials outlined the project, its costs and its highlights for approximately an hour for those in attendance.

Superintendent Bill Lynch explained the project and how the district decided which elements were put into the plan. That process included a review of a facilities study that was conducted in 2005 and consideration of items that were not included in the project that was included in the 2000-02 building project because of costs.

“Everything in this project, we view as a high need,” Lynch said.

Addressing needs under the Americans with Disabilities Act, roofing needs, boiler replacements, instructional space, windows and flooring items are some of the key components, he noted. If approved, Lynch said that the project will address the district’s key concerns for the life of the payment schedule.

“Once we do it, we won’t have a need for (another project) for 15 years or so,” Lynch said.

Business Administrator Kathy Nichols subsequently explained the cost elements of the proposed project and how the district was able to set up a project that will come with little or no local contribution. The bulk of the funding, she said, is scheduled to come through EXCEL aid, state building aid and the district’s capital reserve.

“We borrow for 15 years,” Nichols said. “The state pays it back to us.”

Following the presentation, one resident responded with questions and voiced concern over the attendance at the hearing.

“Obviously this has been a great opportunity for our city,” Third Ward Alderman Robert Weston said.

“I am disappointed in the turnout,” Weston added. “I don’t know if that is positive or negative.”

Weston said that the only negative “chatter” he has heard around the city relates to the decision to put a turf surface at the district Athletic Complex. Because the surface will have a 10-year replacement schedule with a hefty price tag, Weston asked how that would be funded.

“We will budget accordingly so that in 10 years, the money is there,” Fulton Board of Education president Robbin Griffin explained.

Athletic Director Ken Avery explained during the presentation that while some have had concerns about replacing the grass in the complex with turf, he said some of those concerns are based on misconceptions.

“The turf we think of (from the 60s or 70s) is older generation turf,” Avery said. “New (turf) feels much more like grass and holds up better.”

Avery noted, too, that by putting turf down, the district will be able to use the complex for more sporting events and for several sports other than football. He noted that that element alone will help the district address needs for additional field space.

“It takes some of the pressure off of our other field space,” Avery said.

Weston said that he believes the project as a whole is a positive for the district.

“I think it is a great opportunity,” Weston said. “If we pass on this… I think we’re being anti-school system.”

“Obviously, there are a lot of complexities to this project,” Lynch said. He noted, however, that the way the funding piece is set up, it stands as an opportunity to share the benefits across the community.

Griffin pointed out, for example, the work at the high school would help the district prepare to set up as an emergency shelter for the community. Having started that process during the 2000-02 building project, the proposed project would finish that piece by putting the generator in place.

After the hearing, board member Matthew Geitner said that he sees the referendum as an opportunity for Fulton.

“This is a vote to save the taxpayers… and hold the line on taxes,” Geitner said.

Geitner explained that because the state would provide the bulk of the funding, it addresses the district’s needs without looking to the taxpayers to fund those needs. He pointed out that roofing needs, boiler needs, window replacements, HVAC and electrical needs will remain even if that funding were voted down.

For those who are not pleased with the turf element of the project, Geitner pointed out that those costs represent only five percent of the overall project.

“I would say, “Please don’t vote $23.7 million down for five percent,’” he added.
The vote will be held from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Dec. 12 at the district’s four elementary schools.

Lynch noted that anyone with questions about the project can call the district office at 593-5510. Information about the project is also posted on the district Web site. An e-mail link is available for those interested in sending questions via the Internet.