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Great Bend forum yields low community turnout; building’s future uncertain


GREAT BEND — Low turnout at a forum on the future of the former Great Bend Elementary School has left the Board of Education with no clear view of what the public would like to see done with the building.

Carthage Central School District Superintendent Peter J. Turner said there still are a lot of questions about what the district should do with the 70-year-old building.

“I still wonder what everyone is thinking,” Mr. Turner said.

The district is trying to decide whether to spend money to fix up the building, or put it on the market and move its programs and offices to other district buildings.

From the crowd of about 20 guests, fewer than half spoke, and the support for selling or fixing was about evenly divided. A previous study of the building concluded more than $700,000 in repairs are needed to keep the building sustainable.

The important projects include the removal of asbestos, at a cost of about $240,000; the replacement of the school’s floors that has to be done after the asbestos removal, estimated to cost $50,000, and the purchase of a new boiler, estimated at $350,000.

Other improvements include installing energy-efficient windows for approximately $35,000, upgrading the electrical system for $50,000, upgrading building security for $10,000 and repairing sidewalks for $25,000.

Another alternative is for the district not to replace or fix anything except when it becomes absolutely necessary. Mr. Turner said this could mean using emergency funds in the budget.

District resident David Moses said the building has served its purpose and the district should look into selling it. He said the district already has sold off other properties, including the original Carthage school that is now the Elks Club and the Felts Mills school.

“Do away with a very large headache,” Mr. Moses said.

John E. Peck said with the uncertainty of Fort Drum and possible cuts to the number of Army and civilian jobs on post, this isn’t a time for the district to ask for money from the state. He said the Great Bend building is a great place for district offices; there already has been an investment in the building that merits keeping it in operation.

The building is used for district offices and hosts about 20 students in the alternative education department. Because the building’s primary use isn’t for education, repairs made to it would receive no state aid. Board member Joseph Colangelo said 90 percent of construction costs for improvements to the central building would be compensated by the state.

Assistant Principal Karen Jamieson said the building is a great place to host alternative education students and it gives them a place outside of the rest of the school community to work at their own pace. She said the students who attend the alternative education program might not be able to achieve high school equivalency or graduate without the program. There are three classrooms in the Great Bend School, and in one classroom students plan and prepare a meal every Friday.

“This is a family here,” Ms. Jamieson said. “This program is all about teaching life skills.”

Board member Mary Louise Hunt said that after hearing from Ms. Jamieson and others at the forum, her perception about what the community wanted for the building has changed.

She said one of the positives about the building has been using it as a central location for teachers and administrators from the three elementary schools to meet where they wouldn’t have to drive too far.

“Great Bend has always been a great hub,” Ms. Hunt said. She also said she is opposed to removing any classroom or educational space in the other schools to be used as office space.

Business officer Amy Marrocca, however, said she would like to see the business offices moved closer to the district superintendent, whose office is at the high school.

Ms. Jamieson said people in the building have complained about unreliable heating and poor Internet and network services.

Mr. Turner said he would like more community input on the building.

“Stop us in the grocery store, give an earful or just send an email,” Mr. Turner said.

“It would be nice to know which side weighs out.”

Mr. Colangelo said, “It’s all up to us now.”

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