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Potsdam voters to decide on renovation for autism program


POTSDAM — Residents in the Potsdam Central School District will vote March 27 on a proposed $350,000 renovation project of the former Building Blocks Day Care building to house an autism program for the St. Lawrence-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services.

“We’ve had some discussions with BOCES about how to handle the renovations,” Superintendent Patrick H. Brady said, noting the options included Potsdam doing a capital project with BOCES paying for the local share or BOCES paying for the construction itself and dividing the costs among the 18 member districts.

With the local share only $70,000 spread over 15 years, a Potsdam Central School capital project was the option deemed to make the most sense.

The $350,000 project will consist of interior renovations to the building, which then will be leased by BOCES for 10 years, with an option for a 10-year extension.

Mr. Brady said the lease will start at $68,810 per year for the 4,950-square-foot facility and then increase 3 percent each year.

Board of education member Rachel Wallace said she was concerned about what would happen should BOCES elect not to take the 10-year extension, noting the district would still owe money for the renovations.

“It was a risk we were willing to take,” Mr. Brady said, explaining the payments for the final years of payback range from $2,000 to $7,000.

“It’s not a major commitment,” he said. “We have a building being used for educational purposes, and we’re receiving rent from this.”

Other details of the lease include the district maintaining the building and providing trash service.

BOCES will be responsible for its own cable, Internet, phone, water and other utilities.

At the end of the lease, BOCES will turn the building back over to the district.

“Upon completion of the lease, they are to present it back to the district in reasonable condition,” Mr. Brady said.

He also noted the lease includes a 120-day opt-out clause that would allow either BOCES or the district to negate the lease with four months’ notice given to the other party.

Board member Wade A. Davis, who chairs the district’s buildings and grounds committee, thanked Mr. Brady for his work on bringing the project to fruition. “Over 10 years this will bring almost $700,000 to the district,” he said.

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