Facility facelift

11/8/2013

Dighton voters pass $12.4 mill bond issue that will renovate, add on to three buildings.

Dighton voters pass $12.4 mill bond issue that will renovate, add on to three buildings.

By ANGIE HAFLICH

ahaflich@gctelegram.com

DIGHTON — Voters in Dighton approved a $12.4 million school improvement bond issue Wednesday that will encompass energy and safety improvements, renovations and additions to the district's three buildings — the elementary school, junior/senior high school and a building that will be converted into administrative offices.

The vote was a close one — 283 voted yes, and 262 voted no.

USD 482 Superintendent and Dighton Elementary School Principal Bill Morgan said that the district's overall goal for the project was to try to do something for everybody.

"It's a big decision. The town had to really think about what they wanted to do, and now that we're proceeding, I hope everything is what they envisioned it would be. That's kind of the big push for the school board and the facilities committee now, to make sure what we kind of thought we were going to see is what we get," Morgan said.

He said that the proposal came about two years ago, when the USD 482 Board of Education began looking into ways to improve energy efficiency at the schools.

"What they did with their energy audit is they brought about three or four different companies to see who they would use, and the state says that if you want to, you can do an energy audit to save money," Morgan said.

The results of the audit showed that their heating and air systems were operating at 38 percent efficiency or less, he said, adding that, in the long run, the cost of maintenance and repair of the heating and air equipment, which was installed in the 1960s and 1970s, is more expensive than putting in a newer, more efficient system.

"The energy audit itself was about $3 to $3.5 million, and then over an eight- to 12-year period, that was going to end up saving you, after you went through the process, you were going to save about $250,000 a year, so you're spending money to save money," he said.

He said that after the energy audits were conducted, the school board and facilities committee began discussing other improvements that needed to be made to the buildings and found that the junior/senior high school needed the most attention.

The project will encompass the following additions and renovations to the junior/senior high school: a modern, secure entry; FEMA shelter; new wellness center, storage and locker room; renovated track and field; renovated science, band, Family and Consumer Science and other classrooms; renovated auditorium and concessions; and other site improvements, including an elevator for the two-story building, as well as the addition of handicapped parking on the north side.

Morgan said that the main focus in adding a secure front entrance, which is located on a part of the original building that was built in 1932, is to maintain as much of the building's integrity as possible.

"Any work that we do here, we are eligible for tax credits for working on an historical site," he said.

The junior/senior high school currently houses 111 seventh- through 12th-graders, and Morgan said it has a capacity of about 240.

Janice Lockman, FACS teacher, said that the renovation of her classroom is long overdue.

"I'm sure they are asbestos floors, and all of the cabinets are just like falling apart," she said, as she showed a segment of a countertop that was coming off. "The cupboards are falling apart. We nailed them back together. The same with the carpet. We've tried patching it, we've tried sewing it back together. It's just time."

That renovation also will open up a wall between her classroom and the other side, where students cook, do laundry and other things related to Family and Consumer Science.

"That way, when I'm on that side of the classroom, I can still have kids working over here. Right now, it's run around here, run around there," she said.

In addition to new cabinets and flooring, there also will be new stoves and other kitchen equipment.

"All of the equipment and furnishings are part of the bond," Morgan said.

The renovations and additions that will be done at the elementary school include the following: an outdoor classroom, science classroom and storage, a modern secure entry, a new cafeteria that will double as a FEMA shelter, and other site improvements.

The school district's other building will be used to house district offices, including Morgan's, which is currently housed in the junior/senior high school.

"And then these rooms are going to turn into more of a tutoring room, practice room, a testing room," Morgan said.

According to a brochure provided by the district, the cost per homeowner is as follows: $107.24 annually for a $50,000 home and $160.86 annually for a $75,000 home. The median cost of a home in the district is $56,000.

"The bond is going to be taxed from the people of the community on appraised values, and then after that, we'll go into capital outlay to do one or two projects a year, so that we can keep up," Morgan said.

He said that he anticipates that the project will be opened up for bidding in January or February, and that the hope is that construction, on at least the outdoor portions of the project, will begin in April or May.

"We're trying to get everything rolling. We're hoping by the end of the school year, that they're ready to go right into the building and start working on stuff inside the building," he said. "I think the goal is November, December to be all done."

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