Dan Hust | Democrat
SULLIVAN WEST SUPERINTENDENT Kenneth Hilton, left, meets the press with NYS Education Department Facilities Planning chief Carl Thurnau after Tharnau led an inspection of the Sullivan West High School in Lake Huntington on Wednesday.
State: School Was Never In Danger
By Dan Hust
LAKE HUNTINGTON September 21, 2007 The NYS Education Department’s top building officials paid a visit to Sullivan West High School in Lake Huntington Wednesday.
“[There is] no danger with occupying the building,” said Facilities Planning chief Carl Thurnau. “… We do not believe this building was ever in danger of collapse.”
That determination came about as a result of a three-hour tour involving SW Superintendent Ken Hilton, Thurnau and state education department engineer Tom Robert and architect Curt Miller.
Only Hilton and Thurnau sat down for an interview Wednesday, two weeks after emergency repairs to the high school temporarily resolved engineers’ concerns that the second floor was not built to code.
More than a dozen support poles are scattered throughout the five-year-old high school’s first floor, “shoring up” the deficiencies noted in the second floor.
Thurnau, who has followed and signed off on most of SW’s various building/renovations projects since the district came into being eight years ago, said the “inadequacies” were not with the concrete planks that comprise the floor but with their joints where holes had to be cut in the floor to route wires and ducting through.
“Is the joint appropriate as designed to prevent flexing?” he said.
Apparently not, and he credited the school’s custodial staff and administration with spotting telltale floor cracks and responding with due diligence.
“Our role here today is to satisfy ourselves that the proper precautions have been taken, and we are satisfied that has occurred,” Thurnau explained. “… The process this district has in place is exactly what we’d expect.”
The investigation is ongoing, but Hilton said that the support poles will be removed once more permanent repairs are effected later this school year.
Thurnau stressed that the state considers this a health and safety issue and will offer financial aid to SW should it rather than those who designed and constructed the inadequate flooring incur repair costs.
“The state education department is a partner in this effort,” he stated.
Who will be held accountable and how remain to be determined, and Thurnau said the state will not have a role in that.
“We were not a party to the [construction] contract,” he explained. “There are no penalties that I can provide.”
State ed. will require SW, however, to formulate and present a management plan regarding the repairs, including how the district will seek redress.
Though the state ed. department does not maintain a list of shoddy schoolwork and those who performed it, he is confident all will be set right.
“It is a relatively small community,” he remarked of school building firms. “Substandard workmanship becomes well-known very quickly.”
Yet he did not actually believe this problem was out of the ordinary.
“We do 2,000 projects worth billions of dollars every year,” he pointed out. “This is not necessarily uncommon… You expect to have problems. It’s a very large, very complex undertaking.”
Though exempted from its first inspection due to its newness, the high school must now undergo a rigorous state inspection every five years, Thurnau added.
In the meantime, the district will do what needs to be done, said Hilton, even as it pursues litigation with the builders and architects of the school regarding other areas of allegedly shoddy work at the high school.
“We’re not going to delay the needed remediation,” said the superintendent. “We are not going to wait around.”
Frank Rizzo | Democrat
TOWN OF THOMPSON Supervisor Tony Cellini attended his first town board meeting since May on Tuesday. He listens intently as attorney Walter Garigliano, in blue shirt, goes over his clients’ plans for a development in the township.
Guess Who's Back?
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO September 21, 2007 Were he still in grade school, Tony Cellini could tell the most riveting “what I did on my summer vacation” tale in the class.
But the summer of 2007 was no vacation for the longtime Thompson supervisor.
He nearly died twice.
“I couldn’t have been any closer,” he said Tuesday while preparing for his first town board meeting in four months.
“It’s just nice to be on the green side of the grass.”
In late May, Cellini and a couple of friends were trout fishing on Lake Ontario when nausea struck him with a vengeance.
“I was catching fish, and suddenly I started vomiting,” he recalled in a voice weak from a tracheotomy.
Cellini retired to the hotel room and spent three days in there throwing up.
Convinced it was the flu, he ignored family and friends’ pleas to go to the hospital, until finally it became too much to bear.
On May 23, inside the urgent care ward at Crystal Run Healthcare in Rock Hill, the Sackett Lake resident was told he was in the midst of complete renal failure and had as little as two hours to live.
Cellini was immediately transferred to the Horton campus of Orange Regional Medical Center (ORMC) in Middletown and put on the operating table twice. He almost didn’t survive the second surgery.
Doctors discovered that prior abdominal surgery had left scar tissue that wrapped around and closed off the 66-year-old’s intestines.
They put him on an IV and induced a coma for the next month, and family members transported him to Mt. Sinai in New York to be treated by the world’s leading authorities on such blockages.
Cellini spent two months under their care, with wife Linda and sons Todd and Christopher often at his side.
In the process, he lost more than 18 feet of his intestines, and his broad 235-pound frame dropped to just 160 pounds. He couldn’t walk. He couldn’t eat. And thanks to the extraordinary persistence of those around him, he couldn’t conduct any business.
Tony Cellini wasn’t Tony Cellini anymore.
Yet, as deep adversity so often reveals, life and love are far stronger than anyone can imagine.
People who Cellini hardly knew wrote letters of good wishes. Colleagues and friends trekked two hours to pay visits to his bedside. Supporters kept his re-election campaign going in his absence. Even the minutes of one town board meeting after another found their way to him.
“It was really encouraging,” he said, especially enjoying his medical staff’s tales of fondly recalled trips to the county he calls home.
And after an exhausting regimen in a physical rehab center learning how to eat and walk again, Cellini did indeed return home on Labor Day weekend to a county, township and community eagerly anticipating the day.
“Personally, I’m indebted to so many,” he said in a tone of wonder and gratitude, giving specific thanks to his doctors upstate and down, his family, his town board and employees, and his campaign crew.
These days, he’s back up to 190 pounds and is happily walking, talking and eating though not yet as vigorously as before.
“Now I have a cane just for balance,” he related. “… And they let me drive short distances.”
But between his long-awaited return to town politics and an even longer-awaited return to the Finger Lakes home his wife bought them a year and a half ago, there’s little chance doctors will succeed in keeping him on a short leash.
This is, after all, a guy who just days after beginning his recovery at home found Monticello’s Wal-Mart in such poor shape that he demanded they clean up the store, or else.
After a call from the company officials in Bentonville, Arkansas headquarters of the world’s largest corporation Cellini was placated by a now-spotless Supercenter.
Then again, confidence and Tony Cellini are old friends.
“I’m moving along,” he said with the unique resolve of a man who has stared down death. “I just have to get my strength back.”