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This is the currently recommended layout of the athletic fields to be built behind the Sullivan West High School in Lake Huntington.

Sullivan West eyes athletic fields, solar array

By Dan Hust
LAKE HUNTINGTON — September 24, 2010 — The Sullivan West High School may finally be finished in the coming years, nearly a decade after it first opened.
While the buildings have long been completed, a lone football field and some levelled practice areas at the Lake Huntington campus have meant most students play and practice in Jeffersonville.
Thanks to the completion of litigation over the construction of the high school – including a $4.1 million settlement with the school’s former architectural firm – that could change by fall of 2012.
“We now have the financial wherewithal to complete the fields,” SW Superintendent Ken Hilton announced at a recent meeting of the school board’s Facilities Needs and Assessment Committee.
While the number and layout of those fields may not be the same as originally envisioned, “I think that promise has to be fulfilled,” assessed Hilton.
“... We want to see the building used by the community.”
The school’s semi-retired business administrator, Larry Lawrence, said the district’s capital reserve fund – which can only be spent on such construction or renovation projects – has around $7 million unencumbered by any other efforts.
“You should spend every cent of that reserve on these facilities,” he advocated, so as to avoid a tax impact.
Such an expenditure, however, would require a public vote.
The board agreed that there’s no need or desire to fund this project through taxes, but board member Rose Crotty felt more attention should be paid to the high school buildings themselves.
“I would like to see these kids not roast in September/October, in May/June,” she remarked. “... I think we need to juggle some of it.”
Hilton agreed that there are building issues to be worked on, but he noted the athletic fields plan is a scaled-down version of the original, with one softball field instead of two, one baseball field instead of two, and two practice fields instead of three.
In addition, the layout as recommended currently would include two basketball courts, a soccer field, six tennis courts and a small fieldhouse.
Hilton said the offerings would not require borrowing or taxation and would encourage families to move to the district.
Crotty, however, insisted the buildings be the first priority.
“She’s right,” agreed board member Noel van Swol.
Lawrence responded that local workers will most likely be employed on the fields, which are less expensive to complete than some of the building issues, including persistent drainage problems that have allowed water to infiltrate under the high school, buckling tiles and requiring a potentially costly reworking.
“Rose’s point is well-taken,” observed board member Angela Daley. “... This settlement was intended to fix what they did wrong [though the settlement specifically avoids laying blame]. That’s what part of the money should be used for.”
Hilton replied that a building condition survey and five-year capital plan are addressing structural issues, and the board is moving forward on the least expensive portion of the drainage fix.
Added Lawrence, “You hear about things, but that building is very sound.”
He and High School Principal Margie Tenbus, however, did admit that the buildings can get quite hot during the school year, sometimes exceeding 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
The public will have a chance to weigh in at hearings and a future vote, possibly late next year.
The board first has to choose how expensive the fieldwork will be.
While the basic cost is estimated to be $2,363,400, that would not include a much-needed irrigation system nor the higher-end natural surfacing, which would feature specially trucked-in topsoil and grasses.
The “natural” option, however, adds up to two years to opening (giving the grass time to grow and fill out) and ups the project total to $3,972,150.
Using synthetic turf means the fields can open sooner but hikes the total to $5,382,000.
Solar coming to Jeff
Elsewhere during the committee meeting, school engineer Arnie Bertsche confirmed that the district just signed an agreement with NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development Authority) to install a 50-kilowatt solar array on one of the Jeffersonville Elementary School’s roofs.
“We put in for both buildings [in Jeff and Lake Huntington],” Lawrence explained, “but they only gave us money for the elementary building.”
The array, according to NYSERDA requirements, has to be installed by this time next year.
Bertsche recommended SW put it on top of the 1994 building in Jeffersonville, while Lawrence advocated for the 1961 addition to the 1938 building.
The $290,000 grant from NYSERDA requires a 10 percent local match, so SW officials expect to shell out $29,000.
“There’s allegedly a three-year payback on that,” noted Lawrence.
At full operation, the “solar farm” is expected to generate enough electricity to power 13-15 homes, though it will solely be used for the school.
“If it really pays off,” said Bertsche, “we might scale it up later on.”

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