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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 2, 2009

Cuts two
Board OKs proposition for nine new school buses

By Melissa Hale-Spencer

GUILDERLAND — The school board here approved a pared down proposition for bus purchases Tuesday night.

Two months ago, Transportation Supervisor Christine Sagendorf had proposed buying five 66-passenger buses at $102,500 each; three 28-passenger buses at $56,000 each; and three 22-passenger buses that accommodate wheelchairs for $65,665 each. Added to this was a pickup truck with a plow for $36,000 for a total of $913,000.

The school board, by a vote of 7 to 0, eliminated one 22-passenger wheelchair bus and one 28-passenger bus for a total cost of $791,830.

”We are facing a decline in student population and we are facing a strain in the ability to pay for everything we want,” said school board President Richard Weisz.

School district residents will decide on the bus proposition on May 19 when they go to the polls to vote on the district budget.

After the board heard Sagendorf’s original presentation and request on Feb. 3, it asked her to come back with a more detailed report. She presented that report on March 24 and, while board members praised her thoroughness, they were still wary about spending money on buses, “even though I know it’s 47 percent state aid, payable over five years,” said Weisz.

He said, after reading the report, he figured the cost to transport students is “about a buck a trip,” which he said was “less than a public system.”

The district has 5,300 resident students who are transported to Guilderland’s seven schools in a three-tiered system. Additionally, 35 students are bused to private schools, 33 to special-education placements, and five for vocational education.

Guilderland has a fleet of 116 buses with 91 buses covering 88 routes. One bus is used for testing and there are 24 spare buses.

“You’re efficient...that’s not the issue,” Weisz told Sagendorf at last week’s meeting.

“I want to caution everybody...“ Sagendorf told the board. “Each year, I think it’s going to get tougher.” She recalled how one year, the district, without a replacement plan, was forced to buy 24 buses to meet state Department of Transportation requirements.

 “There’s no shortcuts” on safety, said the head mechanic, Mitch Carkner. “You really need spare buses to operate a fleet.”

Board member Colleen O’Connell noted that Sagendorf’s report shows “older buses cost more in repairs...We have to weigh if we’re putting good money on a bad bus.”

“We’re just trying to gauge the sticker shock,” said Weisz at last week’s meeting. He concluded, “The community can vote the buses up or down.”

Other business

In other business at recent meetings, the school board:

— Awarded a contract for $895,718 to Building Management System, the lower of two bidders, to “furnish a complete energy management and control system to integrate all of the buildings within the district.”

As part of a $27 million project that will renovate the district’s five elementary schools, improve technology throughout the district, and move the district offices to the high school, the board had awarded 16 contracts. This was the last of the 17 contracts that were bid, completing the planned bid packages for the project;

— Awarded a bid for monitoring asbestos removal to the lowest of three bidders,  C. T. Male Associates, for $41,125.

The work will be done over the April break at Altamont, Guilderland, and Westmere elementary schools and at Guilderland High School, removing floor tiles and roof drains, said Assistant Superintendent for Business Neil Sanders.

C. T. Male will take air samples and keep a log, establishing a history, Sanders told The Enterprise;

— Heard from Superintendent John McGuire that the town of Guilderland was recently awarded a linkage study grant by the Capital District Transportation Commission to conduct a land-use and transportation study of the hamlet of Guilderland Center.

Existing resources will be evaluated and public opinion will be sought in “the development of a plan that will address future land use and transportation priorities for the hamlet,” McGuire said.

Guilderland High School is located in Guilderland Center.

Board member Cathy Barber volunteered to serve on the study advisory committee, with Barbara Fraterrigo as an alternate. The committee met on March 26 with the town’s consultant, Behan Planning of Saratoga;

— Heard from McGuire that, since the district used three snow days, May 22 will not be a holiday. “Well, you can’t win ’em all,” said the superintendent;

— Awarded a bid for copy paper to RIS Paper Co., Inc., the lowest bidder meeting specifications, for 840 cases for $21,697.20;

— Adopted a policy on independent educational evaluations, which recognizes the rights of parents or guardians of a student who has or is thought to have a disability to receive an independent evaluation at public expense if they disagree with the evaluation obtained by the district’s Committee on Special Education;

— Heard from Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Demian Singleton that 17 Natural Helpers from Guilderland High School volunteered at the St. Jude’s Telethon on March 1;

— Heard congratulations for two Farnsworth Middle School students who advanced in geography an spelling bees.

Seventh-grader Courtland Ingraham qualified for the state level of the National Geography Bee, scheduled for April 3.

And seventh-grader Luxi Peng won the Greater Capital District Spelling Bee and will compete in the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D. C. in May. Three other Farnsworth students also competed in the bee — Zubin Mukerjee, who made it through several rounds, and Hannah Liu and Kristen Bourgeois who made it into the top 10;

— Learned that the Girls’ Basketball Booster Club and Coach Frank Cacckello raised $3,000 during the recent Section 2 Coaches Vs. Cancer drive. All proceeds will be donated to the American Cancer Society; and

— Heard congratulations for high school senior Nick Tariello, the featured marimba soloist at the 17th annual Festival of Contemporary Music on March 16.

“The featured work,” said Singleton, “was Arcadia II, the masterpiece of American composer David Maslanka and a tour de force concerto for marimba and ensemble that speaks about life, death, immortality, joy, damnation, and redemption.”

“Sounds like a school board meeting,” quipped Weisz.

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