Central board weighs bond proposal

Architect estimates $6.75M for synthetic football fields


The Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District is moving ahead with plans for a bond referendum to repair science laboratories, bathrooms and athletic fields, and according to district architect Roger Smith, the referendum could be put to a vote as soon as November.

Smith spoke at the July 24 Central District Board of Education meeting, and presented a report to the board describing options the district has to fix its aging infrastructure. The board must now review the report and decide which projects to include in the bond proposal.

Smith did not offer cost estimates for the projects, with one exception. The architect said that his firm, BBS Architects, Landscape Architects and Engineers, based in Patchogue, recently drew up plans for a synthetic-turf field that cost $1.1 million to construct. After all fees and contingencies are factored in, Smith estimated in a Herald interview that one artificial-turf field would cost $1.35 million.

Three South Shore school districts –– Freeport, Lynbrook and Rockville Centre –– recently installed or are installing synthetic-turf fields, at a cost of $1.5 million each.

According to Smith, redoing the Central District’s football fields at Calhoun, Kennedy and Mepham high schools, and Merrick Avenue and Grand Avenue middle schools, would cost an estimated $6.75 million.

Smith noted that the Central District has funded repairs to the schools through its annual budget for more than 20 years. But, he said, school district officials across Long Island are increasingly less willing to pay for capital projects through the budget –– or “to pay as you go” –– because any budgeted repair project would drive them closer to exceeding the state’s 2 percent property-tax cap.

Instead, Smith said, more districts are proposing bonds to fund infrastructure repairs, because capital bonds are not included in the cap.

Trustee Dr. Matthew Kuschner asked when the district might begin installing artificial-turf fields if the bond were to pass a public vote. Smith said that work on the new fields could start next summer.

Repair work on the bathrooms at all five schools, he said, would have to be phased in over three years, with much of the work being completed during the summers. He added that the science labs would be state-of-the-art.

2012 Kennedy graduate Ross Shulman, who is now a student at Emory University in Atlanta, asked whether water fountains would be replaced as part of the bond proposal. Shulman said that water from the fountains had a bad taste when he was a student.

“Water fountains will certainly be one of the things we look at,” said Superintendent John DeTommaso.

In August, an environmental consultant will issue a report to the school board about the proposal’s possible environmental impacts, and in September the board will hold a community forum to gather input on the measure.

Any proposal the board decides on must pass a state Department of Environmental Conservation environmental quality review, Smith said.

He said he believes the district could bring a bond proposal to a public vote by November or December, adding, “It’s extremely doable.”