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School Board Will Look at Ways to Cut $6.38 Million Capital Improvements Plan

Residents and board members call for review of the five-year plan for improvements, repairs to district buildings.

School District 304 Board of Education members might trim a proposed $6.38 million capital improvement plan before approving it, officials agreed Monday.

“I know you can feel the pain of the people in this community. The economy is brutal right now,” said board member Mike McCormick. “Is there any way we can backload some of this?”

The five-year plan can be stretched and cut back to reflect changing economic priorities, said Facility Operations Manager John Robinson.

“This is a very fluid plan. Some things can be pushed out or repaired instead of replaced. But at some point, if you try to save a dime now it will cost you a dollar later,” he said.

Nearly $2.4 million would be spent repairing and upgrading heating, ventilation and air-conditioning equipment in nine district buildings, including Geneva High School, both middle school, the Coultrap and Fourth Street administration buildings and Harrison Street, Mill Creek, Western Avenue and Heartland elementary schools.

Most of the remaining $4 million would go toward replacing parking lots, rebuilding Burgess Field and upgrading school security, Robinson said.

Board member Bill Wilson asked if planned HVAC work at the high school will be made obsolete or ripped out if the district expands the high school in the next decade. The building now serves 127 more students than its official capacity of 1,800. “I’m concerned whether the equipment will be worked into the expansion plan, or if we’re going to spend money on work that’s going to be replaced,” he said. Robinson said all the HVAC work could be incorporated into an expansion.

Board members agreed that they should think twice before spending a total of $1.085 million to upgrade the Coultrap and Fourth Street buildings. Officials had planned to sell one or both of the former schools, each of which is nearing the century mark, but put the sales on hold until the real estate market improves. In the meantime, administrators work out of the Fourth Street building while board members meet at Coultrap, which also housed Harrison Street School students for a year while that building was gutted and remodeled in 2008-09.

“I wouldn’t spend money on Coultrap and Fourth Street until we know what we’re going to do with them,” said board member Matt Henry. “There are no children there, so we can put them on the back burner.”

Board Vice President Mark Grosso suggested that board members ask questions and tour some buildings with Robinson to get a better sense of what work can or can’t be postponed.

“This is a lot of money we’re talking about. We need to find ways to cut it down,” he said.

Bob McQuillan May 10, 2011 at 05:12 PM
Very good meeting last night, it was encouraging to see individual board members ask tough questions about these planned capital improvements. Bill Wilson even questioned why the HVAC systems in some places are not correct for the size of the building. It appears that millions of dollars are planned to be spent on HVAC in buildings that are not that old. We were told that our school buildings cost more than average when constructed because the best materials are used in order to reduce future maintenance costs. Then within a few years there are requests for renovations to the same systems that were supposed to be better than the average. To spend 6.4 million more on buildings seems very strange especially in today's economy. The Coultrap / 4th Street School is a whole other issue. The idea that the district would spend 3-4 million renovating Coultrap just to move the administration offices there is outrageous. Now they say the building needs additional work. The administration office was renovated less than 10 years ago when Friendship Station was moved to the Middle School South. There is plenty of room in the 4th Street School building for offices. The administration needs to stay where they are and a viable plan for Coultrap needs to be developed and implemented.

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