Springs Residents Decry Selection Of Architect Firm For School Expansion

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The Springs School Board is in the planning stages of constructing an expansion of Springs School, but some concerned residents are not happy with the company chosen to expand the building.

At the July 5 school board meeting the board announced the selection of BBS Architects & Engineers to construct the extension of the school. Some at the meeting spoke out against that decision, citing an unclear explanation of the relationship between the board and BBS.

Carl Fraser, the interim business administrator for Springs School, said he has been overseeing the selection of the architectural firm for the expansion since November 2015 and he is well aware of BBS’ previous work with Springs School.

Mr. Fraser said that in 2014, BBS was hired to give a spatial analysis of the school to determine where construction needs to happen. BBS gave a proposal amount of $8,000 of work needed from the spatial analysis. Springs School paid BBS a sum of $4,195 for their planning work and was later advised by BBS to renovate the school psychologist’s office. This was not well received by Springs residents.

“The community felt that BBS had an unfair advantage being selected over other architectural firms due to it being familiar to the district,” Mr. Fraser said.

The current expansion project began in November of last year with the formation of an Architect Selection Committee led by Mr. Fraser to find architectural firms looking to submit a proposal for the expansion. Eight architectural firms submitted a plan to the committee by December, and three finalists were selected: BBS, Wiedersum Associates, and John A. Grillo Architects.

To have an idea as to how each firm would perform, Mr. Fraser and the committee visited three sites each firm had worked on previously: Hampton Bays Middle School from BBS, Mattituck-Cutchogue Jr/Sr High School from John A. Grillo Architects, and Dayton Avenue School from Wiedersum Associates. The process started last December and by the time of the school board meeting this month, he said a decision was clear.

“We found that BBS was superior,” Mr. Fraser said. “Their references were outstanding and BBS had the most experience and expertise to get the job done. They also said they’d credit Springs for $12,195 for the infrastructure work they did two years ago.”

Springs residents like Carole Campolo, called the original Request For Proposal for the expansion project “a disgrace.” She said that having the RFP sent out on June 25 of last year with a return date of July 2 was a poor decision since it was so close to the Fourth of July holiday, when many businesses are closed. The School Board revised that into a new RFP that Ms. Campolo said is a vast improvement. However, she pointed out the Springs School 2015 Projected Enrollment Graph from the New York State Board of Cooperative Educational Services. The graph shows that, starting in the 2019/2020 school year, enrollment in grades k-8 is projected to drop from 683 to 599 by the 2024/2025 school year.

“So if BOCES is saying the numbers will go down, why are they designing something so large,” Ms. Campolo asked. “Some will say, ‘Well they got it wrong.’ Ok, if they got it wrong a year ago, get a new BOCES, get a new study on that. I never got that.”

On top of that, Ms. Campolo said that neither the Springs School Board or BBS has released a definitive price for how much the expansion project will cost taxpayers.

“How are they gonna get paid? Are they gonna get paid when the contract is ultimately bid out? Well that could be two years from now, so how does this work?”

“The people of Springs can’t afford it,” said Springs resident Phyllis Italiano, a retired achool administrator in Yonkers Public School. “There are too many retired people here on limited income and other people with multiple jobs trying to support their families to spend so much money on a building we might not even need. The word I’ve used for this situation is ‘delusional.’ We have the highest taxes in East Hampton, so where is this money going to come from.”

Ms. Italiano said that an alternative solution would be using the recently-closed Childhood Development Center of the Hamptons building, but she doesn’t want to halt the expansion of Springs School.

“I’ve been in that school, it is very crowded. So I understand where the board is coming from, but there has to be another way.”

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