FERRISBURGH — Ferrisburgh Central School Principal JoAnn Taft-Blakely on Thursday said school maintenance men Wayne Barrows and Gerry Blair would be two of the town’s most important employees this week.
That’s because this summer’s $1.5 million project to improve the school — including installing new heating, ventilation and electrical systems; putting on new, long-lasting rubberized roofing; replacing stained ceiling tiles and rotting soffits; and insulating the space between the ceiling and roof — will be completed on time.
Once everything is moved back to where it belongs from the FSC gym and modular storage units on the grounds, Taft-Blakely said Barrows and Blair will be busy helping teachers put their 13 classrooms back together and tying up loose ends before the school re-opens — as scheduled — on Sept. 2.
“The movers are coming Monday morning,” she said last week. “Then Wayne and Gerry have a whole lot of work to do.”
Taft-Blakely said she was surprised recently when she stopped in at the Ferrisburgh Bake Shop and Deli to hear rumors that the project was running up to two weeks late. She said the Wright & Morrissey Inc. crew led by Paul Vest has operated smoothly from day one.
“Paul’s schedule has kept everything on track,” Taft-Blakely said.
Vest said on Thursday that work to the FCS interior would be complete this past Friday, while workers would still be painting and tying up loose ends on the exterior this week.
“We’re finishing on schedule,” Vest said.
Addison Northwest Supervisory Union business manager Kathleen Cannon said a few bills were outstanding, but that it appeared the project would also be completed within financial guidelines.
Cannon also found a funding source that will make paying for the project cheaper for Ferrisburgh taxpayers — a no-interest loan through a new federal economic stimulus program. She said FCS got a Qualified School Construction Bond loan from Union Bank in Morrisville in which Ferrisburgh will pay back the $1.5 million by simply sending annual $100,000 checks for 15 years. Meanwhile, the Union Bank will receive a federal tax credit equal to the interest it would have earned.
Without that loan, Ferrisburgh would have taken out a 20-year note and paid about 3 percent annual interest. With a typical bond loan, the town would have paid about $120,000 the first year, an amount that would gradually decrease over the 20-year course of the loan.
Taft-Blakely said the no-interest loan will make a tremendous difference to the long-term cost of the project.
“That’s a huge savings for the town,” she said.
Assistant Town Clerk Pam Cousino said a penny on the Ferrisburgh tax rate raises about $46,000. That means to pay for the $100,000 annual price tag for the FCS project the tax rate increases 2.17 cents annually, which translates to $43.40 in additional taxes on a $200,000 home, assuming the homeowners are not eligible for tax rebates.
The centerpiece of what taxpayers are buying is a replacement for the school’s cranky old boiler, which racked up thousands of dollars of repair bills in the past two winters and forced FCS to close at least once when it wouldn’t fire up in the morning.
Removing the hulking old unit before putting in the modern twin boilers that replaced it proved to be one of workers’ biggest challenges.
“It was about eight or nine tons of cast iron,” Vest said. “It took a lot of intestinal fortitude and muscle to get it out.”
But there were few surprises or unexpected challenges other than that, a situation that Vest said resulted from the project architect — L.N. Consulting Inc. of Burlington — having done solid planning and estimates.
Vest said students and staff should be much more comfortable with the many energy-efficiency improvements: As well as the new boiler and insulation, each room has new heating and ventilation units, plus new sliding wood casement windows to replace the rotting and not-too-wind-or-cold-proof older ones.
“They should feel much warmer in here,” Vest said. “They should be in a new, toasty warm building this year.”
The project also created an extra classroom. A new computer lab was made by combining a former closet that was serving as a modest staffroom with space from the library. That change allowed the former computer lab to be converted into a classroom.
The move did also create a bit of a space crunch in the library, but Taft-Blakely said workers created shelf space by removing stairs that had been used as a sitting area for children listening to stories. (“They’ll have to sit on the carpet,” she said.)
And a lot of careful measurements were taken to make sure the library wasn’t shortchanged.
“Believe it or not, it’s going to fit,” she said.