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Architect Admits
Partial Fault

By Dan Hust
CALLICOON — October 22, 2002 – In a meeting that lasted past midnight, the Sullivan West Central School board faced an array of issues and individuals that demanded attention, from the halted renovations work at the 1938 Jeffersonville building to capital reserve fund expenditures.
Board members began their nearly 5-hour evening in Callicoon with grateful recognition for and appreciation of their efforts by the Delaware Valley campus’ PTSO, which presented them with travel cases for carrying all their paperwork.
Noel van Swol of Long Eddy kicked off the public comment session by referencing a Sullivan County Democrat editorial critical of the mistakes that led up to the stop work order at the Jeff campus, saying, “It should be obvious to members of the school board that they cannot trust the administration to make the simplest of decisions.”
Later in the evening, the district’s architect, Mark Lippi of the Hillier Group, admitted partial fault for the “miscommunications” that led up to the state education (SED) and historic preservation departments’ decision to halt renovations in four classrooms.
Due to calls made by residents and Jeff campus faculty members, the state was made aware of the fact that subcontractors for the school’s construction management firm, Turner, were ripping out historic and legally preserved items – oak doors, slate blackboards and wood molding – from those rooms.
It was subsequently discovered, said Lippi and district officials, that the final Jeff campus renovations plans had not been submitted to SED – yet workers proceeded as if final approval had been received.
“We believe it’s a result of miscommunications on many levels,” said Lippi, who stressed that Hillier is not solely responsible for the mistake. “We will work to correct it. . . . We will make sure they [SED] are now happy with what they want us to do.”
He added that the district should not have to pay for the error, and his firm is redrawing the plans to meet state specifications. He was hopeful that approval would be granted early this week.
Turner’s project manager, Scott Bridie, explained that workers continue their efforts in the 1938 building’s basement, readying it for an elevator, along with electrical and piping work.
The advantage to this problem, he said, is that the amount of work that can be done after SED issues approval is less than what was planned – due to restrictions on renovating and refurbishing historic items.
“You will see by summer they will be way ahead of schedule,” said Bridie.
He added that there was another bonus: one of the site supervisors had noticed the historic items like oak closet doors being discarded, so he took it upon himself to save them from destruction, instead storing them in his barn.
“We will be able to reconstruct those classrooms with the original hardware,” said Bridie.
According to a letter sent by the Hillier Group to the State Historic Preservation Office’s Ken Markunas, the four affected classrooms’ eight closets will be reconstructed with gypsum board partitions, the oak closet doors will be rehung in new frames with wood trim similar to what was demolished, the now-gone slate blackboards will be replaced with similarly wood-trimmed markerboards, the destroyed floors will be replaced and the oak baseboard will be replaced with a similar profile.
The letter also stated that the remaining, as-yet-untouched classrooms will retain their closets, recent plywood shelving will be removed from the center opening, slate blackboards in good condition will remain (the wood trim will be refinished), the existing wood flooring will be refinished (or, where necessary due to deterioration, be covered with vinyl tile), new plastic laminate casework will be eliminated, computers will rest on tables rather than countertops and alternate room layouts will be offered to the district for its approval.
Upon further inspection, the state also told Turner and the district that the building’s first-floor lockers should be removed but the second-floor lockers could not be removed, nor could the original windows be replaced with anything other than similar single-pane, wooden windows (although storm windows can be placed as an outside covering).
New lighting fixtures will not be allowed in the corridors, the old clock facings will remain, and the library floor will be refinished rather than carpeted. New bleachers planned for the gym/auditorium were not up to state historic preservation standards, and since Hillier officials do not feel qualified to conduct repairs and restorations to the current bleachers, the district will be responsible for any work on them.
Board member Jerry Triolo, however, felt the state was going too far.
“It seems ludicrous to me on some of these issues,” said Triolo, questioning the propriety of putting preservation concerns over improved safety and efficiency. “It’s like going back to cars without airbags.”
Look in this coming Friday’s Democrat for more on the various other issues discussed at last week’s SW board meeting.

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