By Jann Wiswall

Nearly 600 school district residents took the time to vote on a snowy day to decide the fate of the proposed Capital Improvement Project for the Ellicottville Central School. By a vote of 448-147, the project passed, allowing the school to go ahead with plans to make needed repairs, renovations and improvements to the aging facility.

ECS Superintendent Mark Ward, whose first comment at Tuesday’s School Board meeting when the results were announced was “Hooray!” thanked the board, staff, planners, architects, financial advisors and others for “helping to put together a plan that made sense to all.”

“People voted themselves a tax increase to benefit our children,” Ward said. “It makes me proud to be a member of this community.”

The project was prompted by a number of factors. The first was the recommendations from a board-sponsored strategic planning process to modernize and improve numerous substandard areas of the facility. The second was the Building Condition Survey conducted by SEI Design Group in 2010 — a survey that is mandated by the state every five years to evaluate and inspect all systems, structures and the physical plant. The survey documented a large number of needed repairs and building inadequacies that had to be addressed in renovation plans.

About 85 percent of the approved Capital Improvement Project costs will correct these maintenance and health and safety/security issues, including partial roof replacement, electrical, masonry, and ventilation improvements, accessibility concerns, security improvements and more. The remaining 15 percent of the project’s costs covers reconfiguring and adding a 100-foot-by-50-foot addition to the back of the existing gymnasium in order to create a multi-purpose athletic and performance space that can be used for sporting events, as well as concerts, graduations, testing, large-group instruction, distance learning and more.

SEI Design Group Senior Principal Michael Ebertz, who attended Tuesday’s board meeting, said his team will immediately begin work on outlining a schedule of next steps now that the project is approved. The first item on the agenda will be to hold numerous meetings with teachers, staff, community members and other users of the facility to ensure that specific needs are met. These meetings will be completed by the end of the school year.

Over the summer, plans will be prepared that incorporate the users’ needs and will be ready for school and board review at the start of the 2013-14 school year. Final plans will go to the State Education Department for approval in November or December. By March or April 2014, he expects the team will be able to request and award bids and break ground in May or June. Construction will take 18 months.

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