Johnstown schools plan projects

JOHNSTOWN – The Greater Johnstown School District is planning a capital project that would involve improvements to school buildings.

The district has decided on three architectural firms as finalists to do the design work for the project, which would occur over the next couple years.

Board of Education President Paul VanDenburgh said the district doesn’t have an exact budget or scope of work it wants to do yet. He said architects will work with the district to go over the district’s building survey done several months ago and examine potential projects. He said examples of work the district may do are installation of new school roofs and rekeying of doors.

The district does not yet know how much the project would cost, but district officials said they expect the cost to be in the millions. A public referendum on the project – the bulk of which likely would be paid for by the state – could occur next fall, officials said.

The district several years ago built a new auditorium at Johnstown High School and added synthetic turf at Knox Field.

The new project is expected to involve public safety needs and technology work.

“It’s really a lot of health and safety work,” Superintendent Robert DeLilli told the school board’s Facilities Committee on Thursday.

District Business Manager Alice Sise added, “Now we get to do the housekeeping stuff.”

DeLilli said nine architectural-engineering firms responded recently to the district’s request for qualifications for the capital project. He said the district has narrowed the pool to three finalists. They are IBI Group of Binghamton, Bonacci Architects of Utica, and CS Arch of Albany.

The superintendent said each firm was invited to tour the district’s buildings Nov. 15.

“We’re going to walk through every facility and point out concerns,” DeLilli said.

After the Nov. 15 walk-through day, he said the three firms will work from the building survey and begin to list priorities, using the Americans with Disabilities Act and potential asbestos work as a guide.

The committee scheduled a board meeting for 5 p.m. Dec. 4 at the high school for the three firms to make presentations. The district then will begin to get an idea how much the firms would charge for the work. DeLilli said the district can still reject all three firms, interview the remaining six or “go back to the drawing board.”

DeLilli said he will work with school building officials by Dec. 4 to figure out potential projects. He said the district also will work with the parent-teacher associations so the public can “understand why we’re doing it.”

“That is the time we’ll have feedback from community members,” he said. “That doesn’t mean it will be in the [final] project.”

Eventually, he said, the district will create a “wish list” of projects and hold subsequent meetings to decide on final work.

“A lot of it has to be in the pre-referendum work,” DeLilli said.

About 15 percent to 20 percent of the cost of the capital project – expected to be in the several millions – will be for an architect and engineer, as well as fiscal adviser, DeLilli said.

DeLilli said the odds of having a public referendum on the capital project in May is “pretty slim,” so it most likely will have to be scheduled for next fall, possibly October. He said there is a 24- to 30-week turnaround time after the referendum – if approved by district voters – to gain state Education Department approval for the capital project. That would be followed by the bidding process.

The district eventually would have to settle on a general contractor for the project, which could receive state financial aid for around 90 percent of the cost. The rest of the cost could be paid for through bonding, or borrowing, over 30 years.

“It’s exciting, but it’s daunting,” DeLilli said of the capital project process.

He recalled the process he led several years ago at the Gloversville Enlarged School District when he was superintendent there. He said the project ended up costing tens of millions of dollars.