Nov. 13, 2015
The Schalmont Facilities Committee shared its findings from the past year of research and building tours with the board of education at Monday night’s board meeting and presented recommendations for building repairs and renovations in the form of a possible capital project.
The committee – comprised of community members, board members and district staff – identified several key areas for consideration by the board, which would help to increase safety, add storage options and improve the general condition of some of the district’s buildings.
Several projects the committee identified are tied to the “useful life” of a building’s infrastructure and would include work at the district’s transportation storage (known as Transportation Building 100), the high school and middle school and Jefferson Elementary.
“Many parts of a facility are good only for so long, then wear and tear comes into play as they near the end of their useful life,” Schalmont Superintendent Carol Pallas explained to the board.
Many of the items included in the committee’s findings also came from the district’s building condition survey. This formal building audit is conducted every five years to identify areas that require repair, replacement or renovation based on health and safety needs. The items listed in the report are those that will need to be addressed in one way or another in the coming years.
A major area of concern is the roof of Transportation Building 100. While the building still has “great bones,” the committee reported,the roof is no longer solid.
“You shouldn’t be able to see the sky,” Schalmont Business Manager Joe Lenz said.
“Pieces of it are literally crumbling,” Pallas added.
The committee identified this project as a high priority because the roof will either need to be repaired as soon as possible or the district will need to vacate the facility for safety concerns.
After examining options that included selling the building, repairing the building, tearing it down and building a new structure either at the existing location or a new location, committee members recommended repairing and revamping the existing space. Part of this recommendation was based on the knowledge that the state does not offer aid for new bus storage facilities.
The committee also recommended replacing the sprinkler and fire alarm systems, adding exit and emergency lighting, and making a number of other changes to help the transportation department run more efficiently. This includes the possibility of relocating the bus repair shop to the transportation building, which would be renovated to include additional maintenance bays so that all work can be done in one location instead of driving buses back and forth.
“The ceiling of the current repair shop is too low for the lift to work as fully as it should, making it difficult for mechanics to get under the bus properly,” Pallas said.
Other recommendations included restructuring the transportation offices to provide adequate ventilation and heating and adding a true bus wash that would allow for better cleaning of the district’s buses, and thereby extend their useful life.
The committee identified the original 1968 HVAC systems in the middle school as another area of concern. Items such as ventilators, transformers, gate valves, drainage piping, air handling units, heating piping, ductwork, and emergency lighting are approaching the end of their useful lives and need to be brought up to current building and safety codes.
Similar to the middle school, some of the original construction of the high school is nearing the end of its useful life such as the original restrooms, the old gym roofing and flooring, corridor tiles, and storm drainage. The committee also recommended resurfacing the track.
Another recommendation was to create a more secure vestibule entrance by the new gym that would be the main entrance to the high school after hours. The vestibule would create a space where visitors pass through two doors, similar to the entrance at the middle school and Jefferson, increasing safety and security.
“After the buses leave, most of the activity happens by this entrance,” Pallas said. “With sports activity and adult education classes all taking place at that end of the building, we can increase security and awareness of who is in the building if everyone is going in and out of one entrance.”
Pallas added that her recommendation would be to ensure that this entrance is manned by a monitor into the evening on most school days.
The committee also identified some optional renovations to the music, athletics and physical education areas of the building to improve traffic flow, increase storage, and enhance music and band classrooms.
“It would straighten our circulation in that part of the building,” project architect Karl Griffith said.
Much like the middle school and high school, Jefferson requires some work to be brought up to date, but on a much smaller scale. Work on the wing built in 1974 would include fire alarm strobe units and emergency lighting installation, electrical reconstruction and some pavement/masonry work.
The committee also researched the pros and cons of installing synthetic turf baseball and softball fields.
While having turf on the stadium field may present the district with an opportunity for rental income, SED will only allow state aid on one field project. Having turf field could get the baseball and softball teams on their fields sooner in the spring than is possible now, which would have more of a direct impact on the Schalmont teams.
“We researched the pros and cons of turf fields, and we are torn as a committee on this as far as making a recommendation. For every one community member we talk to who is for it, there is one against it,” Pallas said. “While there are advantages to turf, we also recognize that we have very good fields.”
Though the district’s facilities staff regularly makes repairs and building updates, there is a limit to what they can accomplish within the general fund budget.
“Funding repairs through the general budget only allows for small-scale upkeep. It doesn’t give us the funding or means to do larger-scale projects,” Pallas said. “Using just the operating budget for repairs is not the most cost-effective way to address large projects.”
Elements of a capital project are eligible for state aid, which is why Pallas and the committee recommended the board consider putting a project before district voters. The district currently has a state aid ratio of 59.8 percent for eligible expenses – meaning the state would reimburse the district for nearly 60 percent of eligible repairs and construction, with the remaining 40 percent being the estimated local share.
The committee presented the board three options for bond projects to review and discuss at its next meeting. Any costs associated with those options are estimates at this time, as the district is still awaiting guidance from the State Education Department on what parts of the project would be eligible for the 60 percent aid.
“We presented our recommendations to SED early on and were told in
concept, it is all aidable, so we are continuing to work under that
assumption as our plans are currently reviewed at a more thorough
level,” Pallas said. “If SED comes back with a different response, the
committee will reconvene for further discussion.”
The facilities committee has outlined the following options for the board. At this time, all number are estimates based on preliminary plans and conversation with SED.
Option 1: Total project - $14 million
Option 2: Total project - $23.7 million
Option 3: Total project - $26.6 million
The board will review the information and recommendations provided by the facilities committee as well as further guidance from the state on what aspects of the committee’s recommendations are eligible for state aid and hold further discussion on the possibility of a capital project at its Nov. 23 meeting.
The board may accept any of the options as presented, pare them down, or decide to move forward with smaller projects over time.
If the board does decide to proceed with a capital bond project, it
is expected to vote on the scope and the amount in December with an
eye toward a vote date in March.