Alton Central School renovation/expansion plan whittled down from $19M to $4M

ALTON — School Board member Steve Miller, who a year ago was among the most outspoken opponents of borrowing $18.7 million to renovate, reconstruct and expand Central School, is championing a warrant article to spend $4,200,825 to build six classrooms and new office space.

"We're getting the kids in the school where its safe and warm," Miller said yesterday, explaining that the new space would replace the four modular units that have housed students for years and are nearing the end of their useful life.

Last year voters soundly rejected a proposal to add a second story housing eight classrooms in 11,660-square-feet constructed atop classrooms on the ground floor. In addition, the plan called for converting the existing gymnasium to a cafeteria and multi-purpose room and replacing it with the 7,644-square-foot gymnasium, which served the former Alton High School.
Altogether the project included the renovation of some 64,750-square-feet and the construction of 28,347-square-feet of new space.

At the time, Miller offered an alternative plan that would have eliminated the modular units, added administrative office space and replaced the HVAC system with a price tag of $7 million that was rejected by Deliberative Session voters while Ray Howard proposed a $4 million project that also failed, but by a narrow margin. "I think the $7 million plan would have been doable this year," Miller said, "but the $4 million project will suffice for now."

The $4.2 million would fund construction of 10,588-square-feet to house six classrooms, along with additional restrooms, and another 3,588-square-feet of office space to accommodate administrative personnel, who are scattered around the building.

Noting that security of both the school and its students will be significantly enhanced, Miller remarked that bringing the students under one roof and enabling staff to screen access became high priorities after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut. In addition, a new fire suppression and alarm system will be installed, together with new ceilings and enhanced lighting.

It's a big deal," Miller said, "but I think the whole town, with a few exceptions, understands the need. He estimates that the project would add between 60 cents and 65 cents to the property tax rate depending on the term and rate of the borrowing. Altogether the town would borrow $3.9 million and draw approximately $732,000 from three expendable trust funds to finance the project.

The School Board voted three-to-nothing in favor of the project, which was also recommended by the Budget Committee.

Voting is scheduled for Tuesday, March 11.