Potential capital project pricetags being considered by the Board of Education include $44.3 million to move Staley Elementary School to an expanded former Clough school building, and $20 million for a new athletic complex behind Rome Free Academy.
They were among proposals Thursday night by the school district’s architect, LaBella Associates, for the “very beginning of the planning stages” and a “point to start discussions” for a possible public bonding referendum vote, board President Stephen P. Hampe said.
The board is aiming for scheduling a referendum vote in December, Hampe said Friday, and over the next six to eight weeks will look to nail down what projects are included for seeking voters’ approval in that referendum. He added the Fiscal Advisors, Inc. company is expected to present data at the board’s next regular meeting Aug. 22 regarding how much financial aid would be provided by the state Education Department. The state typically has reimbursed large percentages of the school district’s capital project costs, which are separate from the district’s regular annual operating budgets.
Projects involving relocating Staley and creating an athletic complex at RFA’s Griffiss park site were initially proposed last December by school district Superintendent Peter C. Blake. He has said the aging current Staley site at 620 E. Bloomfield St. has issues including moisture-related concerns whose corrective costs would not be as fiscally responsible as using a separate location; keeping Staley at the Bloomfield Street property which is near a river would require a new building with the land elevation raised, he has indicated. Blake also has said the state would not help fund renovations needed at current athletic facilities at RFA Stadium off Turin Street, which are not part of a regular school site.
As for the LaBella Associates capital project presentation, it included a “needs assessment for the entire district” based on administrators’ feedback, Hampe explained. Potential projects were divided into four priority levels.
Hampe said the first priority, totaling $55.6 million, included as its largest cost the $44.3 million expansion and conversion of the Clough building at 409 Bell Road into a new Staley location. Also included in that priority group were work to help restore the field facilities at RFA Stadium to acceptable levels for usage; maintenance work at RFA including the pool; and revising security vestibules at elementary school entrances.
The work at the RFA Stadium field facilities possibly could “give us a few years” before seeking a new athletic complex behind RFA at Griffiss park, Hampe noted; work needed at the current stadium site includes the artificial turf field and the track. Regarding state financial assistance, athletic fields “can be a much more difficult needle to thread,” he observed. A potential new RFA athletic complex, he said, was listed as a fourth priority by the LaBella firm. But he also pointed out the board conceivably could opt to seek the new complex as a higher priority.
The second and third capital project priorities as listed by LaBella involved various other school facility needs that are not as urgent, Hampe commented. The board is hoping to establish ongoing building maintenance practices that avoid waiting to conduct large single-building renovation projects such as what has occurred in recent years, he said.
The Clough building at Bell Road currently includes the school district’s central office, plus another portion is used for the district’s pre-Kindergarten program. Under the scenario for expanding that site to become a new Staley location, said Hampe, the district office would remain there while the pre-K location is still being determined. Whatever steps are decided upon, Hampe remarked, would have no impact on the 2019-20 school year that includes schools opening for students in September. For a capital project, the “first shovel would not hit the ground for at least a year,” he added.
Final project details are “all still open for discussion,” Hampe said.