SL school board balks at $5K book cases

SARANAC LAKE — Saranac Lake school board members balked at approving a change order for part of the renovations at Petrova school Wednesday, deeming the $103,030 price tag for rebuilding the cabinets in 16 classrooms too expensive.

While most of the building project’s first phase (phase 1A) has been completed, rebuilding the oak cabinets in 16 classrooms is one of the last things to be done.

“The materials list is 90 percent reconstructive, so that works out to $5000 in labor to build one 12-foot book case,” said School board member Jeff Branch. “I think that’s padded. I hire people to do things (like this) for my household, and I don’t think anybody here would pay that much money for someone to build a book case.”

Branch suggested that the work be put out to bid in the community, saying that there are many talented craftsmen locally who could do the work cheaper.

School Superintendent Diane Fox had several objections. She said the teachers in those classrooms are “working out of boxes” because they lack cabinets, and she’d like to get the work done as soon as possible. As it stands, the book cases wouldn’t be finished until spring break, because that’s when the workmen can get back in the building.

She said Murnane, the company running the capital project, would be charging less if it were done this way. The original quote for the work was $115,000 for 17 book cases, one of which is finished.

“My foreman is leaving Nov. 1,” Fox said. “I’m hoping it will all be as close to done as possible when he walks out the door.”

School board members Clyde Baker, Jeremy Evans, R. Miles Van Nortwick, Mike McCreadie and Branch opposed granting the change order. Board president Rick Retrosi and member Jim Abendroth voted in favor. The motion to put the book cases out to bid passed.

“I think you’re cutting off your nose to spite your face,” Fox said. She said it’s not easy for small contractors to bid school jobs. “They have to meet our bonding and insurance policy.”

Fox said that the bidding process, if everything falls perfectly into place, would take six weeks “at the earliest.”

“I’m afraid it’s going to be costly,” Retrosi said.

“We’re taking a risk,” Evans said. “But at least we can say to folks we looked at all of our options.”

The book cases, or cabinets, are original oak installed when Petrova was built in the 1920s. At that time, they were constructed as closets to store students’ wet outdoor clothing.

A venting system throughout the building brought heat from the furnace into the closets, drying coats and shoes during the day.

This renovation project keeps the original material, but turns the oak into storage cabinets, or book cases.

The book cases are being rebuilt as part of an $18.7 million capital project of renovations and improvements to the Saranac Lake High School, Petrova Elementary/Middle School, Bloomingdale Elementary School and the former Lake Colby Elementary School. The project, which will take place over several years, began with $2 million in work at Petrova and the high school. Once this project is done, the next phase is estimated at $10.4 million and the last phase at $6.4 million.