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Beaver River officials mulling project to upgrade fields, school

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BEAVER FALLS — Beaver River Central School District officials are considering a capital project that would include improvements to athletic fields and the school building.

And they are hoping to get plenty of community input, particularly for the outdoor part of the project.

“We’re very excited about getting this rolling,” district Superintendent Leueen Smithling said.

The Board of Education last week selected Bernier, Carr & Associates, Watertown, to design the project and set a community forum for 7 p.m. Monday in the high school library to discuss potential field upgrades, she said.

Cory Jenner of Appel Osborne, Syracuse, who helped design field work in a $12.5 million project that was handily rejected by voters in December 2008, will help begin the planning process, Mrs. Smithling said.

“We’re going to start from scratch,” she said.

The 2008 project included extensive upgrades to the athletic complex, including installation of an artificial turf field.

Mrs. Smithling attributed the voter response partly to poor timing because the referendum took place just after the stock market took a hit, and Lewis County officials were considering massive layoffs owing to budgetary constraints.

However, the superintendent said, she doubts the district will propose turf this time around.

The artificial surface was recommended primarily because it tends to withstand heavier use than a natural surface, so an extra practice field may be needed to accommodate all school and community uses in a new grass-based complex, Mrs. Smithling said.

“That’s what the community needs to tell us,” she said.

District voters in May 2010 did approve a scaled-back, $2 million project that included auditorium repairs and other upgrades from the original plan that were deemed most needed.

However, that didn’t address problems with the athletic complex, which, aside from the baseball field, has seen no work in ages, Mrs. Smithling said.

Despite having a historically strong track program, deficiencies with the facility have prevented the school from hosting a track meet since before her arrival as superintendent in 2007, she said.

“We’ve been all over the place,” Mrs. Smithling said. “We’ve even had to have home track meets at APW (Altmar-Parish-Williamstown). How much sense does that make? An hour and 15 minutes away.”

She noted that a newspaper story on the school’s sectional champion tennis team mentioned the grass growing through cracks in the school’s asphalt courts.

With 70 percent of eligible students participating in sports and community groups using the fields over the summer, athletic fields are an important part of the facility, Mrs. Smithling said.

Following Monday’s field discussion, the Board of Education plans to hold a work session with Bernier, Carr officials at 6 p.m. Thursday in the library conference room.

“They’re going to start discussing the scope of the project,” she said. “Nothing has been finalized.”

However, other items that could be part of the project include pool upgrades and creation of a large-group-instruction room, a fitness center in unused space above the elementary gymnasium and an agricultural suite, including a lab and greenhouse, Mrs. Smithling said.

Plumbing, heating and lighting upgrades could be used in the kindergarten and first-grade wing, which hasn’t been touched since 1959, and the second- and third-grade classrooms, which are open-style rooms with folding curtain dividers, have seen no upgrades for at least 50 years, she said.

State building aid is expected to cover about 82 percent of capital project costs, with the potential of 92 percent coverage of eligible security upgrades, Mrs. Smithling said.

Tentative plans are to develop a project in time for a June vote so construction could start in 2014, she said.

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