Montclair is facing the prospect of $65 million in capital repairs over the next several years, at the suggestion of the school district’s architects of record. That includes $20 million in repairs deemed to be especially critical.

During a recent meeting of the Board of School Estimate, architecture firm Parette Somjen recommended that the schools embark on a series of preventative repairs over the next three to five years.

Parette Somjen presented the board with a six-inch binder containing $65 million in capital projects for the district. From that, the board asked Parette Somjen to go through the binder and identify priority projects. “Just so they get a flavor of what’s in there,” Business Administrator Emidio D’Andrea said on Tuesday.

The priority projects total about $20 million. Charles H. Bullock is the only school not to have any repair jobs included on the priority list. It is the newest of the district’s 12 school buildings.

D’Andrea and John Eschman, the schools’ construction official, are meeting with the principals at each school to review the projects in each school’s binder.

D’Andrea noted that the building principals might have their own suggestions on what projects were especially critical at their respective schools.

Once that is completed, D’Andrea said that the business office would present a list of projects to the superintendent and board of education.

The five most expensive upgrades on the priority list are for athletic fields and facilities, all costing upwards of $1 million.
At Montclair High School, the list recommends replacing the grandstand and the track at Woodman Field, and to replace the field turf carpet at Fortunato Field.

D’Andrea said that Fortunato last had significant work done in 2005. Since then, the field has received minimal repairs.

The goal is to get the field-related projects out for bid during the summer months. But D’Andrea said the mayor and council would have to approve a bond ordinance for those projects.

“When you’re talking about athletic fields, turf and running track, there’s a shelf life,” said Joe Kavesh, the chair of the Board of Education’s facilities, finance and technology committee. “From what I know, none of our athletic fields are unsafe, but resurfacing is a fact of life.”

He said that the repairs and replacements at the fields would likely be done as a staggered process. “Obviously one of the considerations has to be ... you want to have a place for student athletes to perform their sports.”

The grandstand replacement at Woodman Field would cost an estimated $1.3 million. At Fortunato, the replacement of the turf carpet and related work would cost $1.4 million.

At Watchung School, the replacement and expansion of the turf field is expected to cost $1.3 million.

A number of Watchung parents have been urging the district to look into overhauling the HVAC system at the school, saying that the auditorium at the school gets uncomfortably hot during warm weather. Kavesh said that the overhaul of Watchung’s HVAC is a project that he would classify as priority. On the priority list, the repairs for Watchung include $776,000 for annex wing ventilation upgrades.

D’Andrea said that the discussion of the priority repairs would most likely come up as the district schedules its budget meetings starting early next year.