Architect Joe Fuller gives the Port Chester Bond Advisory Committee a presentation about the adjustments he made to the elementary schools during their Tuesday, Nov. 1 meeting. 
Casey Watts|Westmore News
Architect Joe Fuller gives the Port Chester Bond Advisory Committee a presentation about the adjustments he made to the elementary schools during their Tuesday, Nov. 1 meeting. Casey Watts|Westmore News

The Port Chester Bond Advisory Committee (BAC) is potentially one meeting away from presenting their recommendation to the Board of Education. The members made their final decisions on school plans as well as how much the project could potentially cost during their meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 1.

Maura McAward, assistant superintendent for business, was able to provide a rough estimate of how much aid the elementary school builds would be eligible for. She reminded the committee that the aid is only confirmed once the New York State Education Department does their own analysis. The numbers McAward presented are only conservative estimates and do not reflect the changes Fuller and D’Angelo P.C, Architects and Planners made to the concepts between Tuesday, Oct. 25 and Nov. 1.

The John F. Kennedy Magnet School addition would have cost $12.7 million before the architects redesigned some of it for the Nov. 1 meeting. At this number, McAward predicted that the project might be aidable at 43-52 percent, which could be $5.5-6.6 million, depending on if the NYSED considered the six classrooms in the maintenance area an alteration or new construction.

“Obviously we’re going to do a little bit of battle to see if we can get a little more for that,” McAward said.

At JFK, the “educational improvements,” as architect Joe Fuller called them, would cost $15.37 million, which includes a relocated maintenance building on the ground level below a new gymnasium. The tweaked concept has eight classrooms, six of which would be in the maintenance space and two would be added next to the new gym, a renovated media center and four office spaces.

The previous plan, which would have cost $14.7 million after relocating the maintenance facility, had nine classrooms, an extended gym/cafeteria space, a renovated media center and no offices.

King Street School’s plan also underwent slight changes. Before it came with a price tag of $9.9 million, which is the number McAward used to calculate the potential aid. Of that total, 12.7 percent might be aidable, meaning $1.26 million.

“The major portion of construction in this area is a large space,” McAward said. Essentially, building a large area like a new gym means less state aid.

With the new design, King Street School would get a new gym, two classrooms and 64 new parking spaces. The staff parking lot would not be extended to save money and the new classrooms would be built in a way that if the school needed to expand in the future into the field, the hallways would line up. This increases the cost to about $10.5 million.

Park Avenue School and Thomas A. Edison School concepts did not change. Park Avenue has an estimated cost of $2.6 million. McAward estimated it would be aidable at 63.5 percent, $1.696 million. Edison might cost $291,000 and McAward did not present the aid number.

The estimated final cost

Overall, the elementary schools could cost a total of about $28,761,000. If McAward’s numbers are not affected that much by Fuller’s “educational improvements,” then about $8.46-9.55 million could be aidable. That might leave taxpayers responsible for about $19.2-20.3 million for the elementary school projects.

Adding that to the estimated $49.9 million Port Chester High School’s construction would set the district back, the total bond would cost about $78.66 million. PCHS might be aidable at 43 percent, meaning $21.3 million.

The total aid for the entire bond might be around $29.76-30.85 million depending on JFK. This means that taxpayers could be responsible for around $47.75-48.84 million.

All of the numbers are estimated based on the architect’s Oct. 25 presentation and nothing is finalized by NYSED. Everything is subject to change.

How much is too much?

The BAC went around the room and heard from each person with their thoughts on the final dollar amount.

“I’m quite apprehensive about 78 million,” Tom Corbia said. “I know that scares a lot of people and I’m one of them. I would like this committee, if we could, to propose two plans to the Board of Education.” The two plans would be the current recommendations and a more conservative build.

“I believe the Board of Education will be a bit apprehensive of that large number,” he continued. “It’s important to look at the big picture. If they get two proposals, they may commit more under one than the other. If we don’t learn from the past, we’re going to be doomed by it.”

This idea met well with some, but others felt if they presented two plans, then the board would default to the cheaper option, which might not be the best for the students or for the future of Port Chester.

Joe Lodato was not deterred by the large cost like Corbia was. He believes spending this kind of money now would be fiscally responsible due to the possibility of rising interest rates.

Ken Force, a former band director at the high school, recalled being promised building fixes that never came. “We haven’t done a darn thing in my 50 years here. When are we going to learn from the past?” he asked. “I see those kids out there and they deserve the best Port Chester has to offer.”

Chairperson Ana Gonzalez agreed. She made the metaphor of Port Chester being like Charlie Brown from the television show “Peanuts” trying to kick a football, but every time he gets close, Lucy van Pelt pulls it away from him.

“We’re on the brink of greatness,” she said, and this time, she believes Lucy won’t move the football.

Richard Hyman said he would vote for what the committee put forth, but he still believes there is a better option that would fit 75 percent of the committee’s charge for the high school. During the first meeting, Hyman proposed PCHS concept 15, which added 10-12 classrooms to the ends of the wings on Tamarack Road and renovated the existing gym. He believes 15 would cut the cost down to around $18 million for the high school and there would still be enough wiggle room to add everything for the elementary schools.

However, Hyman’s idea does not alleviate student foot traffic, does not add a competition gym, and does not give the building 14 new classrooms, a number given to the BAC by Principal Dr. Mitchell Combs and the Board of Education. Because of that, the committee voted to eliminate Hyman’s idea from the running during their Oct. 6 meeting.

Although there were mixed thoughts, the general consensus of the room was to go big or go home. Therefore, the committee voted for Gonzalez to write the draft and present it to the other committee members. The motion passed with a vote of 22 in favor and Hyman abstaining.

The BAC will meet on either Thursday, Nov. 10 or Tuesday, Nov. 15 at 7 p.m. in PCHS Room 229 depending on how long it takes Gonzalez to write the draft and circulate it to the other committee members. This could be their final meeting or their second-to-last session if they invite members of the Board of Education to discuss their proposal with them.

Committee members

The Port Chester Bond Advisory Committee is made up of 29 people. They are Rosemarie Barone, Joan Carriero, Thomas Ceruzzi, Thomas Corbia, Susan-Anne Cosgrove, Kenneth Force, George Ford, Ana Isabel Gonzalez, Stephen Greto, Gregory Guarino, Jody Helmle, Richard Hyman, Maureen Josephson, Joseph Lodato, Laura Luzzi, Heather Mateus, Kevin McFadden, Keith Morlino, Chrissie Onofrio, Denise Quinn, Patricia Rinello, Eric Rios, Elizabeth Rotfeld, Lou Russo, Jennifer Sanders, Debra Scocchera, Stephen Simmons, Patricia Sutton and Albert Wesley.

Gonzalez is the chairperson, Simmons is the secretary and Morlino is the alternate chair.