The Daily Star, Oneonta, NY - otsego county news, delaware county news, oneonta news, oneonta sports

March 24, 2010

Springbrook expansion program approved

By Denise Richardson

Staff Writer

A proposed school for autistic children will create 112 jobs, fuel the local economy and provide instruction and care for pupils sent to other states for services.

Springbrook's $20 million Coming Home expansion project has received final approval from the state, Sen. James Seward, R-Milford, and Patricia Kennedy, chief executive officer of Springbrook, said Tuesday. The construction and renovations are to begin in June and take about 20 months, officials said.

``The Coming Home expansion puts people first, by creating the capacity to bring children, forced out of state, back home _ this will mean a great deal to the children and their families alike,'' Seward said in a prepared statement. ``Springbrook is already Otsego County's fifth largest employer, and the Coming Home expansion will generate an additional $5 million annually.''

The state Education Department and Office of Children and Family Services will pay $14.7 million of the project, Springbrook officials said in a project summary. Springbrook is raising $5 million, officials said, and thanks to donors and a $2.5 million matching grant from Buffalo Sabres owner and Paychex founder B. Thomas Golisano, less than $500,000 remains to be gained in the fund-raising effort.

To support the project, Completing the Puzzle _ A Gala for Springbrook will be at the Otesaga Hotel in Cooperstown starting at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Tickets for the dinner and dancing event cost $200.

Springbrook is a not-for-profit, state-licensed agency that serves 650 individuals and families affected by developmental disabilities.

The School at Springbrook is a residential- and day-school serving 76 students aged 5 to 21, a media release said. Kennedy said the staff has 850 employees.

Plans for the autism school and expansion began in 2006 when the state sought proposals to meet needs for a residential school for children with developmental disabilities, especially autism, the release said.

To meet needs of the students, officials said, extensive modification and additions to facilities will be made at the Springbrook campus off of state Route 28 in the town of Milford near Oneonta.

The Coming Home project will create a school for 36 children with autism. Of that number, 24 students are facing being forced to attend school out of state, officials said, and a local school will keep children closer to families and taxpayer dollars within the state.

The project will include building a six-classroom wing, a kitchen and cafeteria and three duplex-style houses, according to a summary.

Renovations will be made to the interior of the school, the roadway, water and sewer system and drainage system.

``At a time with good economic news is hard to come by, the Springbrook expansion is extremely significant and will pay future dividends both economically and socially,'' Seward said in the release.

Kennedy applauded Seward's support.

``This project would not have been possible without Sen. Seward's help,'' Kennedy said. ``He knows it was simply the right thing to do.''

Seward and Kennedy said they were ``thrilled'' the project was set in motion with the final approval from the state. The state's final approval was granted last week after ``a long and seemingly endless process of review'' by several state departments, Seward said.

The release said other details and benefits of the Springbrook project include:

"¢ The 112 new jobs will include positions for teachers, aides, therapists, nurses, administrators and maintenance and direct-care staff.

"¢ The residential complex to accommodate 24 new students. Each 5,075 square-foot housing unit will have two four-bedroom wings and students will have single bedrooms.

"¢ The Autism School will keep taxpayer money in the state. By housing and teaching 24 students in-state, more than $890,000 annually will be saved based on the average out-of-state tuition and maintenance cost.

"¢ Construction jobs will be available, and Springbrook pledges to work with local contractors and vendors as much as possible. The agency already has worked exclusively with architects, environmental engineers and a construction management firm located in the state.

The project is being financed through a 30-year bond, which will be paid off through an increase in the rate paid by the state to care for students, the summary said, and Springbrook seeks approval from the state Department of Budget for the future rate increase.