Officials defend Strough project pace but eye 2018 alternatives

Published Dec 12, 2017 at 4:10pm

Although potential alternative steps are being mentioned in case the completion schedule goes awry for renovating Strough Middle School’s Laurel Street building, a school district official says it is too early for such considerations.

The goal is for a “completed project on-time,” and “I think where we are in the project right now...it’s a little premature to second-guess that,” Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds Paul Rabbia told a Board of Education committee Monday.

The project is scheduled to be completed in time for all students to resume using the site next September.

Rabbia’s observations during the board’s buildings and grounds committee meeting came after committee chair Paul Hagerty asked whether there were plans for finishing the project in phases and for having it be only partially occupied for a time. It is “feasible something like that could happen,” he remarked, later asking whether the district would “have space ready” for that scenario.

Rabbia remarked earlier in the meeting that the project is “tracking along.” He is “not super-confident,” but has a “measure of confidence” about its pace.

The massive $25.4 million renovation began during the prior 2016-17 school year, and has prompted Strough’s seventh- and eighth-graders to temporarily be relocated for 2016-17 and the current 2017-18 year.

They are using the former Rome Catholic School (RCS) building at Cypress Street under a lease agreement, and the
former Fort Stanwix school building.

The district would need to know by February or March if the Strough project is on schedule for completion, in relation to leasing the former RCS building, said Assistant Superintendent for Operations and Management Robert Mezza Jr.

Mezza said funding could be included in the district’s upcoming 2018-19 budget plans in case the lease needs to be extended. The property’s owners are “trying to sell that building,” he observed, but the district does have an option to continue the lease.

The district is leasing the Cypress Street site from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse for $38,000 a month, in an agreement that terminates on Sept. 30, 2018.

The district has an option to renew it on a month-to-month basis with a monthly payment of $25,500.

Regarding the renovation at Strough’s main Laurel Street building, a roof section over a small addition is still not enclosed due to unanticipated remedial work that was needed on several roof bar joists.

Rabbia said the joist issues have now been corrected, and plans to complete the roof are pending temperature conditions that can affect which method is used to fasten the roofing materials.

Otherwise, work on the project is proceeding and “all is looking well right now,” Rabbia commented.

While the district is still seeking to “get the building weather-tight” and fully enclosed including the small addition area, the project overall is “tracking at a good clip,” he later observed.