Amid much sniping and shouting at the Jan. 8, board of education meeting, the members of the BOE discussed the site and safety logistic plans for the construction phase of the bond project for Weber Middle School and Schreiber High School.
Project Manager John Turmelle of Turner Construction made his presentation suggesting that while construction was under way, some of the field in front of Weber Middle School be used as a staging area. This means that construction vehicles, workers cars (about 30 of them), equipment and some of the 100 plus teachers' vehicles that are being displaced on the Campus Drive site.
The possible loss of this field space caused most of the board members concern, as the field is currently used for lunchtime recess, among other things (i.e. PYA, PAL games, practices).
Board member Peter Wezenaar suggested that they expand the Monfort Parking lot (the student parking field currently behind the Post Office) as soon as possible, so that students or workers could park there. This would save the field for the students."They could just walk a block or two to the school," he said.
The construction manager replied that he didn't want the workers walking all around.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Al Inserra asked Mr. Turmelle if 60 percent of the field were retained for the students, would it be safe for the kids, given the fact that construction would be going on around them. He replied "yes."
Board member Laura Mogul asked Weber Principal Matt Sansone if using 60 percent of the field was adequate for the students' needs.
Mr. Sansone responded that he and his staff are looking at other options for recess. "Our team is looking for ways to compensate for losing the field.
He added that he has safety concerns with using the field while construction is under way (i.e. trucks coming in and out). "Supervising the playground is already a challenged," he stated.
A concerned Peter Wezenaar noted that even though Turner Construction said it is safe, Mr. Sansone had voiced safety concerns.
Board member Nancy Cowles raised issues concerning the ability to speedily evacuate the school for a fire drill (or actual fire); the temporary inaccessibility of four fire hydrants in the staging area and the path walkers to school will take.
Laura Mogul asked what issues the police and fire departments had with the safety plan.
The fire department had not been sent a copy of the plan at the time this meeting took place.
However, the police department had. Speaking for the department, Officer Tony Guzzello informed the board that the department has to sit down with the construction group, as the PWPD has "serious" concerns about the proposed safety plan, Officer Guzzello said, "We need several hours."
Most of the board members said that there were too many unanswered questions and wanted the input of the fire and police departments before they moved the project forward.
Laura Mogul wanted assurances that if the field really needs to be taken for parking temporarily, that the needs of the youngsters for a midday recess are met in some acceptable fashion.
Dr. Inserra said that while he realized Turner Construction had to perform a major balancing act during construction, and that space was at a premium, the district doesn't want to trade parking for kids' space.
At that point, the superintendent told the project manager that field retention was a priority. He asked that the matter be discussed at the Jan. 10, OAT (owner, architect, Turner) meeting, which is an internal meeting, held weekly with Board President Richard Sussman and board member Julie Meyers.
In a phone conversation that transpired following the OAT meeting, Dr. Inserra advised that after further discussion with the architect and project manager, the OAT committee will be recommending that the whole field in front of Weber be used as a staging area. He explained that the other choices were worse (i.e. take another field from Schreiber).
This recommendation will be presented to the entire board at a special meeting to be held Thursday, Jan. 17, at 6:30 p.m. at Schreiber High School.
In other matters, John Turmelle advised that after reviewing the drawings for Schreiber and Weber, which are now at the 50 percent point, both building projects are just slightly below budget. Total construction cost estimates for Schreiber is at $18,242,900 including air conditioning in the library and select rooms, which is below the $19,447,196 budgeted in the bond; Weber is at $13,779,642---also including air conditioning in the library and select rooms, which is also below the $14,234,341 bond figure for this portion of construction for this school. These estimates do not include fees (i.e. architectural) and incidental costs.
Tab Hauser suggested that some sort of service be provided to ferry students/worker/teachers a large underutilized lot nearby.
Ellen Fox suggested that valet parking be used temporarily at an expanded Monfort lot so that cars can be piggybacked in the spaces, as they do at Shish Kebab's parking lot.
Jim Ansel had serious concerns about the "sit and safety logistic plan," which he said should not be called a "safety plan," because it's not worthy of the title. He said, "it's shy of a large number of items concerning the children's safety (i.e. deliveries, removal of debris, hydrants, the type and height of temporary fences, etc.) He suggests that a professional site plan expert be hired to review any proposed safety plan, adding that each phase of construction needs a safety plan.
Pam Goldman is also concerned about losing field space for the students.
Debbie Odell feels that the field should be used for either parking or recreation for the kids."The children's safety cannot be guaranteed, because of "the cars, trucks, fumes, wind, exhaust and metal being moved around the site."
Port Washington Teacher's Association President and Weber teacher Marianne Cariello corrected a statement made by Turner at the meeting. They did not meet with the faculty on this plan, as they claimed they did.
David Strom and Pam Goldman sharply criticized the behavior of the board, especially that of Board President Richard Sussman. Ms. Goldman did not like his "unfriendly attitude toward Robin Schroeder."
Mr. Strom said that he was embarrassed particularly by Sussman's lack of respect and tolerance, which he (Strom) as a teacher in the school, believes sets a poor example for the community and the students.