Mt Pleasant News

Wash Journal   Fairfield Ledger
Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 22, 2018

W-MU school board heats up talk over HVAC replacement

Jul 12, 2018

By Gretchen Teske, Mt. Pleasant News


WINFIELD — Talk of a new HVAC system heated up once again for the Winfield-Mt. Union School Board as they met in a work session on Wednesday night. The board all agreed the system needed to be redone, but how they would pay for it still remained a controversy.

Superintendent Jeff Maeder said the current HVAC system is nearing 35 years old, having lasted nearly twice as long as is normal. Looking at a bid from Estes Construction, the cost to replace the system would cost a cool $3.1 million. The estimated cost would include replacing boilers, air conditioning the three-story school building and an additional $20,000 to update electrical. The electrical is not an immediate need, as it can be done anytime over the next ten years, however the board agreed it would be best to do the project during construction. “You’re looking at an investment now versus a cost later,” said Board Vice President, Dan Schurr.

To pay for the project, the board has two options. The first is to use a Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) and Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE). Both of these would be funded from sales tax in the town. The second is to go for a bond referendum, which the board has not had luck with in the past.

If they choose the bond route, they would bond for $6.2 million in order to fund the HVAC, remove the temporary buildings and build a permanent building for preschool and expand their industrial technology program. $3.1 million would go toward HVAC with an additional $2 million for the preschool and the left over money for industrial tech and various school improvements.

“It doesn’t have to be an ‘either or’ thing,” said Maeder. “Depending on what we want to do ... we could possibly think about a lower bond referendum and supplement it with some SAVE and some PPEL.”

However, not all board members were on board with the idea of such a large bond.

“It seems like we don’t have much luck with the higher requests,” said board secretary Carmen Benson. “Maybe we need to piece it out.”

Maeder agreed this could be a possibility, but the longer the project is put on hold, the risk of increased costs also rises. Pete Perez, of Estes Construction, sat in on the meeting as a consult. In regards to building a permanent space for the preschool, he said the budgeted amount was right on target.

“I’m just going off what we’ve recently done for another district,” he said. “(But) right now I’m thinking four classrooms at 1200 sq. feet plus some for accessory hallways and toilet rooms, we can do it for under two (million).”

Board members still remained concerned about not passing the bond which would result in the projects not being completed. However, others remained optimistic. “I think if you bundle HVAC and pre-K, that’s a hard no vote,” said Schurr.

The discussion concluded with an agreement to think on the idea and take a second look at the next meeting. “I think it was good conversation. It helped kind of get everybody informed about where that funding comes from,” Maeder said. “I will bring back something to react to as far as what we want to do.” The conversation was tabled until the next meeting and the regular session began.

The district is gearing up for the school year by adding new staff members. As well as a new bus driver, the school has added a new cook. Free breakfast and lunch will now be served which supplied the demand for an additional staff member. “We believe that with all the new additional things we’re going to be offering, it’s justified and we can afford that,” Maeder said.

Elementary school principal Gabe Wylder announced he spent his week interviewing for additional staff members but had not made any hiring decisions yet. However, the school has formed a partnership with a school in San Lorenzo, Puerto Rico, where Wylder is from. Through donated funds, the school was able to help repair a fence line torn down by a recent hurricane. Because of growing poverty on the island, schools are merging and this one is to go from 250 students to around 600. Wylder suggested looking into a project to donate books for the school’s library.

The next meeting of the W-MU school board is Wednesday, Aug. 8, at 6 p.m. in the school library.

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