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|5/11/2013 ||Email this article Print this article |
|Central school board inching forward on operations building plans|
By Jeremy Huss
The Central Community School Board will move forward with a plan to sell the district's current transportation building and construct a new facility for the newly-combined transportation and maintenance department, although board members indicated they would reverse course if the final cost comes in too high.
At its May 8 meeting, the school board approved a resolution of intent to sell the current transportation building and authorized spending approximately $70,000 to prepare bid specifications for a new, 20,000-square-foot operations building to be constructed south of the administration building.
The current transportation building, also known as the Krieger building, is located at 100 E. 11th St., DeWitt.
The final decision on whether to move forward will come at the board's July meeting and will be based on the potential sale price of the Krieger property and bid prices for building the operations center.
A cost estimate for the new facility came in more than $400,000 higher than the initial estimate after the board last month authorized engineering and architectural firm Knapp-Warden to prepare preliminary design specifications.
An estimate presented at the May 8 meeting put the cost at just over $1 million, and only after the scope of the project had been scaled back following Knapp-Warden's original estimate of $1.4 million.
To get the cost down, operations director Keith Walker said he removed plans for a canopy over the bus storage area, used lower-cost finishes and replaced concrete with gravel wherever possible.
Walker and superintendent Dan Peterson both recommended moving ahead with the design process and putting the project to bid despite the higher price.
Walker said he believes there is "wiggle room" in the cost estimate that could result in bids below $1 million. Even if the district can't afford to construct the facility now, Walker said it's worth paying for the design plans so they can be used at a future date if bids come in too high.
"If nothing else, this goes into the next part of the conversation - the sale of the Krieger property. I don't want to get in a position where we OK the sale of the Krieger property and then this comes in at a $1.2 million," Walker said.
"Personally, I'd like to see where the costs come in at just so we have something to consider," Peterson said.
Board members ultimately agreed, but it took a lengthy discussion before they were convinced it's worth the expense to move forward knowing the plan could be derailed based on financial considerations.
Asked about the construction timeline, architect Mike Warden said it realistically will take 4-5 months because of an 8-10 week wait for delivery of a steel building, four weeks to erect the structure and additional time to finish the interior.
Board member Steve Fuglsang said that means the transition to a new facility would have to take place during the school year.
Walker said transportation and maintenance employees could make due.
"If kids can eat in the wrestling room for a year-and-a-half, bus drivers can punch in somewhere else for a few months."
Board member Kurt Rickard advocated for delaying a decision to allow time to meet separately and brainstorm ways to reduce the cost.
The board discussed reducing the size of the building to lower costs, including eliminating $70,000 for a sprinkler system that is required if the facility is larger than 12,000 square-feet.
Walker questioned the value in spending money to construct a new facility that is only slightly larger than the 10,000-square-foot Krieger building. Transportation and maintenance staff would still be in separate facilities, so the district wouldn't really gain anything, he said.
Rickard suggested completing the project in phases.
"We could do it a piece at a time, sell the Krieger building, and accomplish the same thing in steps rather than all at once," he said.
Architect Bill Knapp said phased construction will cost more in the long run and said it also creates obstacles for adding on in later phases, such as having to install fire separation walls.
Board member Steve Fuglsang said he wanted more time to look at the finances after the board approved two other major infrastructure expenditures earlier in the meeting - replacing the roof at Ekstrand Elementary at an estimated cost of $465,960 and installing air conditioning units at the elementary and secondary school buildings at an estimated cost of $468,435.
Fuglsang said he also wants to learn more about the city's future plans for extending Fourth Street to the east, since the new operations center would be constructed near where the street now ends.
Walker said he met earlier in the day with city of DeWitt building official Giles Looney to talk about the plans. Walker noted city regulations require a paved drive all the way to the building and 25 feet of pavement around the building for parking, so there is no way to reduce the cost by switching all the pavement to gravel.
Discussion was held on alternative sites that could lower the overall cost. Rickard said the property is isolated and requires lots of concrete that adds expense, and he said it's time for the district to "get creative" in its plan.
However, Warden said the site cost of $130,000 for a 20,000-square-foot facility isn't unreasonably high.
"I don't think the site's an issue. I don't think you gain anything," he said.
Walker said another alternative is to keep the Krieger property but demolish the current transportation building and construct the operations building at that site.
The board began moving toward a decision after Peterson said there are at least three parties interested in making an offer on the Krieger property.
Discussion centered on the timeline for both projects and whether the district should solicit bids for the Krieger property before considering the construction project or wait for a final cost on the operations building before moving ahead with the sale of the Krieger property.
The board decided to move ahead on both projects simultaneously and to make a decision on both projects at the same time.
Bid specifications for the operations building should be ready in June, allowing the district to solicit bids that would be opened and considered following a public hearing at 6 p.m., Wednesday, July 10.
A sale of the Krieger building will be held on the same day, although the district reserves the right to reject any and all offers. A separate public hearing is required before the district can approve the sale.
The district will accept sealed bids for the building to set a floor price, and individuals who submit bids will be allowed to participate in a subsequent auction to the highest bidder. Time limits for the auction will be set at the discretion of the auctioneer.
A public hearing on the elementary roof replacement and air conditioning projects will be held at 6 p.m., Thursday, June 6.
Bids will be opened earlier in the day, and the board will act on the bids following the public hearing.
The district has $2.1 million in undesignated funds available for infrastructure work, based on $800,000 in construction funds remaining from the last facility addition project, $112,000 in the physical plant and equipment levy (PPEL) fund, $991,249 in sales tax funds and the estimated sale price of $225,000 for the Krieger property.
Subtracting $250,000 held as emergency funds leaves the district with $1.87 million available, assuming the Krieger building is sold at the estimated price.
However, the cost of the roof replacement and air conditioning projects will be close to $1 million based on the estimates from Knapp-Warden, reducing the available funds to around $878,000.
The vast majority of future sales tax and PPEL revenues already are committed. The district will receive an estimated $462,900 per year from PPEL, but $400,000 is committed to technology and maintenance work.
Central will receive an estimated $1.19 million in sales tax funds annually, but $950,000 per year is committed to making the district's revenue bond payments, and $200,000 per year is allocated to the transportation department for vehicle purchases.