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Board approves renovations at both school buildings

Both the Kenmare elementary and high school buildings will be under construction this summer, following three hours of discussion and votes taken during a special meeting of the Kenmare School Board held March 23rd. Two school staff members and four local residents, including three parents, also attended the meeting.

3/31/10 (Wed)

 

Construction will cost $1.54 million
 
By Caroline Downs
 
Both the Kenmare elementary and high school buildings will be under construction this summer, following three hours of discussion and votes taken during a special meeting of the Kenmare School Board held March 23rd. Two school staff members and four local residents, including three parents, also attended the meeting.
 
Architect James Devine of J2 Studio in Bismarck joined board members to review the bids opened at the March 16th meeting for renovations at Kenmare High School, and window repairs and a heating replacement project at Kenmare Elementary School.
 
For the board’s information, Devine noted the completion date listed for the Phase I portion of the high school renovations was August 13, 2010, with the completion date for Phase II listed as October 27, 2010, rather than extending the work over two summer construction periods.
 
He also explained the high school bids included an alternate bid solely for the science classrooms and a second alternate bid for the Phase II classrooms which included the science rooms, and that the alternate carpet bid was intended to cover additional carpet in rooms that now have other flooring. The rest of the flooring costs were already included in the Phase I and Phase II bids.
 
Members of the school board started with a discussion of the high school project, as led by board president Roger Johnson. Concerns were raised by Lenny Rodin and Mike Zimmer about the need for the complete Phase II aspect of the project. They specifically questioned adding bathrooms and building permanent walls within a few feet of where the current walls would be demolished.
 
Zimmer asked about reducing the extensive duct work outlined in the project, but Devine explained the air flow of the renovated classrooms would need to be balanced with the school’s complete air circulation system. “Sure, you might save a couple thousand bucks, but the system may not perform the way you want,” he said.
 
Rodin stated more than once that he preferred to limit the total cost to $1 million. “I agree the science rooms can be done,” he said, “but I don’t think going the next step--wrecking a lot of stuff that’s in great shape, probably better than what would be built--is the right thing to do.”
 
Craig Ellsworth expressed his opinion that completing both phases of the project would actually save money for the district. “The contractors are already here,” he said. “If we don’t do Phase II and we do the science rooms, pretty soon [the other rooms] will need flooring, pretty soon [the other rooms] will need lighting, and you’re spending the money anyway.”
 
Options to pay for the projects
The discussion turned at that point to the district’s finances and the amount of money that could be spent on the project. Business manager Renae Murphy said the district would have no problem generating $1 million. “With the interim fund balance, the building fund money and the [federal] stimulus fund money, I don’t know why you couldn’t come up with a million dollars,” she said.
 
She explained that if the district decided to borrow money to finance part of the project, two-thirds of the board members would have to approve the decision and the district would have to be bonded by the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction.
 
Jan Kostad reported on a conversation he’d had at a local financial institution, with a 3.75 percent interest rate offered on a 15-year note and a 4.75 percent rate offered for a 20-year note should the district decide to finance a portion of the projects.
 
“You need to decide what you’re comfortable with for the interim fund, figure out what you’re going to spend, and the difference is what you’re going to finance,” he said. “The interest rates are low right now, and you can always retire the debt early.”
 
Board members talked about the district’s interim fund at length, the financial needs and expenses of the district, and their opinions about the appropriate balance of the interim fund. They discussed the pros and cons of borrowing money to pay for the project, as well as the need for a ten percent contingency fund for potential cost overruns or unforeseen problems with the projects.
 
“If you look back at the last few years, this district has been financially sound,” said Murphy. “The idea isn’t to get richer and richer. It’s to pay for what you need to operate.”
 
Superintendent Duane Mueller, Johnson and Lars Christensen supported the idea of completing Phase II in order to create the number of classrooms needed for the total number of students enrolled, which would include keeping some of the elementary grades at the high school or even moving all the students there if enrollment numbers dropped significantly. “The high school needs a minimum of 10 classrooms, with our current curriculum,” Mueller said. “And keep in mind, the parents don’t want their elementary kids mixing with high school kids.”
 
Christensen emphasized the efficiency of completing the entire high school project now. “Hopefully we can keep our grade school open for 25 more years,” he said, “but if we’re going to spend the money, let’s do it right the first time. It’s going to be cheaper in the long run.”
 
The future of Kenmare
Elementary School
The board turned their attention to the bids received for the elementary school, beginning with the windows bid. Members talked about less expensive methods to repair or replace the windows, although Devine warned against installing vinyl windows, which had created new problems in his experiences with other school building projects.
 
Discussion about the bid to replace the elementary building’s heating system led to some of the most animated debate of the meeting, after the bid amounts were reviewed. “I can’t see spending $180,000 down there for five to ten years,” said David King. “That’s a complete waste.”
 
Zimmer pointed out the need to divide both the first grade and kindergarten classes next year, according to state laws about the student-to-teacher ratio in the primary grades, but King countered with a suggestion to simply repair the existing propane furnace for a few thousand dollars and rely on that system.
 
Another suggestion was made to replace the existing coal boiler with an electric boiler and run heated water through the copper pipes that currently carry steam through the building. Again, Devine intervened. “We had a discussion about that when the engineers were here,” he said. “If you change from steam to water, you change the dynamics of the system. Copper pipe wears thin and can deteriorate over time. If you put water through those pipes, you’ll find your weak spots in a hurry.”
 
Rodin made a motion to accept bids from general contractor C.S. Dubois of West Fargo for $9658, Northern Plains Plumbing & Heating of Bismarck for $115,490, and Bartsch Electric of Rugby for $59,200 for the elementary school heating system project. The three bids totaled $184,348.
 
Devine explained the project would install forced air electric heat in the multi-purpose room and the classrooms, with radiant heat units in other rooms at the building. “When we discussed this with the engineers, this was one of our most economic choices,” he said.
 
Board members continued talking about the elementary school, including the location for the electric panel, building codes and the potential remodeling of a storage area for use as a resource or Title I classroom. However, King questioned the future of the elementary building. “I don’t want to see that building go 25 years,” he said. “It’s old, it’s dilapidated.”
 
“We’ve had it inspected and it’s sound,” said Zimmer. “The children enjoy being down there. The parents enjoy having their kids there.”
 
King pointed out the total cost of the heating project and proposed window replacement. “You’re looking at spending $400,000 down there when you could use that [money] to add classrooms [at the high school],” he said.
 
Discussion focused on current and the potential future enrollment, with Johnson and King predicting lower numbers of students, and Zimmer noting the immediate bubble in the primary grades that would require more classroom space for at least the next few years.
 
“We could be considering double third grades, double second grades, double first grades and double kindergartens,” Superintendent Mueller said. “And we could need two ITV classrooms in the future [at the high school] because of foreign language requirements for our students. If you look at the [floor] plans, are there enough classrooms for the future?”
 
Ellsworth noted the $184,000 heating project at the high school and the $1.355 million cost of doing both Phases I and II at the high school would total $1.54 million, plus another 10 percent earmarked as a contingency fund. “In my mind, this is a solid 15-year plan,” he said. “If enrollment stays high, we’ve got a school that we can run for 15 years. If the [student] numbers do drop, then we have space available for everyone [at the high school].”
 
Devine suggested the board consider an alternative plan for the elementary window project that would involve removing the panels for inspection of the walls behind them and replacing only the damaged panels. “That would get you another ten years or so with those windows,” he said. “Not all of the panels are in bad shape.
 
King said he wouldn’t be opposed to replacing the elementary school’s heating system if both phases of renovation were done at the high school.
 
After two hours of consideration, the board voted 6-1 to accept Rodin’s motion to upgrade the heating system at the elementary building, with bids totaling $184, 348.
 
Board members then approved Ellsworth’s motion to reject the bids received for the window replacement project.
 
Phase I and II
renovations at KHS
King immediately offered a motion to accept the low bids for Phase I and Phase II of the high school renovation project, without the carpet alternative. These bids included American General Contractors of Alexandria, MN, for $765,900, Kipp’s Plumbing & Air Conditioning, LLC, of Minot for $268,387, and Mayer Electric, Inc. for $321,300. Those bids totaled 1,355,587. The project would be paid from the school’s general fund, building fund and federal stimulus funds received, with the amount needed to complete the project borrowed and financed.
 
Kostad estimated the total amount to be financed, if the interim fund were spent down to $500,000, would be $750,000, with the annual building fund more than adequate to cover the yearly payments for a loan. “I’m confident if we maintain the number of students we have at the elementary level and maintain the student numbers [at the high school], we can feel comfortable doing this project,” he said.
 
Board members talked with Devine about the sink and bathroom installation included in some of the new classrooms that would be potentially used by the kindergarten classes. They agreed the lines could be installed at this time, with the plumbing to be completed in the future should those sinks and bathrooms become necessary.
 
The board also discussed the construction schedule and possible disruptions to students and teachers at the high school, given the Phase II completion date of October 27th. “I’ve seen projects of this size get done within the summer,” Devine said, adding that the last rooms to be completed would likely be the science classrooms. “One of the first things we’ll ask for is the construction schedule.
 
We’ll work with them to get the classrooms done, get the carpet done, get the punch list done, so the teachers can start moving back in there.”
 
Zimmer requested a roll call vote for King’s motion, with Rodin and Zimmer voting against the motion and King, Kostad, Johnson, Ellsworth and Christensen voting for the motion.
 
With a two-thirds majority required to approve this type of project, the 5-2 vote was enough to pass the Phase I and II renovations at the high school. Devine said he would notify the contractors involved and prepare draft contracts as his next step.
 
Total cost for the work approved at the elementary and high school buildings, with a 10 percent contingency for overruns, was projected at $1.69 million.
 
In Other Business:
*Board members approved a bid on a 5-2 vote to purchase a new John Deere 4320 utility tractor from Gooseneck Implement in Kenmare for the cost of $32,500 with trade-in. The board discussed several options for the tractor with salesman Matt Borud and decided to eliminate the cutter for lawnmowing purposes. They also chose to increase the size of the snowblower for the unit, going with the 74” blower. Borud said the final cost of the tractor would be adjusted for those changes.
 
*A Policy Committee meeting was scheduled for Tuesday, March 30th, at 8:30 am at the high school.
 
*The board met in executive session to discuss negotiation strategy.
 
*The next regular meeting of the Kenmare School Board will be held on Tuesday, April 20th, beginning at 6 pm with a public meeting to discuss the district’s long-range demographics plan, followed by a regular meeting at approximately 7 pm. Both meetings will be held at Kenmare High School.