The firm hired by the Weyauwega-Fremont School Board to analyze the district’s facilities is now breaking out the information specifically related to the HVAC systems in the buildings.
That is after three of the seven members of the school board met for a sub-committee meeting on Feb. 25 to discuss the district’s current HVAC systems.
Those members were Kurt Duxbury, Neal Loehrke and Sandy Smith.
“I think HVAC should be attacked first,” Duxbury said, noting the majority of the board agrees on that.
Loehrke said he wants to see “good, better, best” financial options for HVAC.
Smith said some people thought the replacement costs in the district’s long-range facility analysis are high.
District Administrator Scott Bleck said the esimated costs in the plan are for two years from now and thus take into account inflation.
“I expected to know if we put air conditioning in every building, this is what it’s going to cost,” Smith said. “Maybe the answer is there, and I just don’t know where to find it.”
Blayne Parkos, of ATS&R, attended the Feb. 25 meeting said the information is there.
He described the study as a detailed, in-depth analysis.
“We can break it down any way you want it to be,” he said.
Parkos told the committee this may be done quickly and at no additional cost to the district.
The committee may have the information before a Focus on Energy representative visits the district on March 6 to do an inventory of the district’s present mechanicals.
Loehrke said after that visit, the committee will see where it wants to go from there.
Duxbury said an HVAC update could be part of the board’s March 9 committee of the whole meeting.
Bleck said there could possibly be an action item related to the HVAC systems on the board’s March 23 agenda.
It was during the board’s Feb. 23 meeting that Loehrke requested a sub-committee meeting to look into a five-year maintenance and capital expenditure plan for the district.
During that meeting, some members expressed their frustration with the long-range planning process.
“I feel that we’re not any further ahead than we were a year ago,” said Dan Kohl. “I would like to know the life expectancy of the mechanicals. There are no specific numbers in here.”
Duxbury said the board keeps running in circles, talking about projects one time and then maintenance the next time.
District Administrator Scott Bleck agreed.
“We bring forth ideas. When the ideas come forward, you are continuing circling,” he said. “We’re never moving. We are just talking.”
The school board voted a year ago to hire the Minneapolis-based ATS&R to complete a long-range facility study for the district.
Last spring, the firm analyzed all of the facilities in the district and also met with staff and students.
ATS&R completed the draft plan last June, and additional work followed.
The completed facilities analysis and educational assessment identified areas in each of the schools deemed to be below square footage standards.
It also identified priorities for each of the buildings, such as improving safety at entries, improving air quality and consistent temperatures, improving bathrooms and creating new spaces in schools.
The analysis included cost estimates.
The cost of the intitial repairs and remodeling projects that were presented as options totaled between $21.2 and $25.6 million.
The school district then sought community input during a series of meetings last fall.
During the first of those meetings, on Oct. 9, some people wanted to see additional options, including one large kitchen and commons on the Weyauwega campus, consolidation of the district’s two elementary schools and a comparison of the cost of building a new high school versus repairing and remodeling the current one.
By the time the third meeting took place on Nov. 6, the number of options for the district to consider increased from four to five.
About 15 people attended that meeting when Dean Beeninga, a partner and architect at ATS&R, presented the options.
The options included remodeling and repairing all the district’s schools; consolidating the two elementary schools; building a new high school; and doing minimal work.
Cost esimates for the various options ranged from $24 to $50.5 million.
On Jan. 15, Beeninga presented the information to the school board.
“The community group was great,” he told the board. “We had three sessions. They worked hard.”
Beeninga explained to the board that those who attended the Nov. 6 meeting had five “votes” for their top choices among the options presented.
Option 4, which was to build a new high school and a new elementary school, received the most votes, he said.
During that meeting in January, Kohl said more than 3,000 people are eligible to vote in the district.
“You can’t base this on 15 people. A lot of people don’t even know this is going on,” he said.
Smith said a building project would need the support of the district’s younger families.
Beeninga recommended a survey of all district residents or allocating $2 million into a school every five years for mechanical updates.
“Come up with a plan for the next 20 years,” he said.
Board member Deb Bartel said the district must be fiscally responsible.
Duxbury said the reality is it would almost be impossible to do much without a referendum.
The discussion continued during the board’s Feb. 9 Committee of the Whole meeting, when Board President Doug Ehrenberg asked if the board wants to focus on one area first or pick and choose from among all the needs.
Duxbury said HVAC is important.
“Obviously, we’re not going to build a new high school and a new elementary school,” he said. “Somewhere in there is a compromise to get.”
Kohl said putting money and time into a referendum is unrealistic when the district is not growing.
“We have to take care of HVAC and then decide what to do after that,” Bartel said.