The Fieldcrest Building Committee met Wednesday night in the cafeteria of the Fieldcrest High School in Minonk to discuss the results of a second opinion study to repair the school building in Wenona. The study was done to determine if the results differ very much from a Life-Safety study done by the engineering firm The Farnsworth Group last year.
The study was done by the engineering firm Cordogan Clark & Associates Inc of Aurora. A senior architect, a mechanical engineer and an electrical engineer spent one day on a walk through of the school buildings in Wenona to determine a cost estimate to repair the buildings. The cost estimate for repairs to the building was 20-30% less than the Life-Safety study done by The Farnsworth Group although Fieldcrest Superintendent Dr. Dan Oakley said he was told by Farnsworth engineers that their study could show a 25% variance in the estimated cost.
The Cordogan Clark study suggested it would take $10 million over 10 years to complete the repairs needed to the school building compared to the $17 million cost from the Farnsworth study. Dr. Oakley said if you extrapolate this amount to all Fieldcrest buildings it would take $20 million to repair all buildings in the school district.
Someone in the audience asked how much it would cost to build a new school building. Dr. Oakley said it would cost over $40 million to build a k-12 building in a central location where water and sewer needs must be built whereas it would cost around $30 million to build a 6-12 building in one of the communities that already had an infrastructure.
Regarding the study, Fieldcrest board member Charles Lohr said the study indicated that the repair to the north wall of the Wenona building may possibly be completed through tuck pointing rather than rebuilding the wall. The Cordogan Clark engineer said "the tall roof on the old school building at Wenona needs repairs but the rest of the roofs look to be in pretty good shape."
Board member Scott Hillenburg said the 20-30% lower repair cost is a substantial reduction but fears that when repairs begin there may be bigger problems that could not be determined before hand. He said he doesn't want to spend $10 million on a building that in the future the school district may not need. Mr. Hillenburg said past school boards tended to spend more money on teachers instead of building maintenance adding that building maintenance has been lacking since day 1.
Mr.HIllenburg said he would like to see a study on the high school building in Minonk to see if a 20-30% reduction in repair cost could be found there as well. He said if repairs are to be done, they must be done well with no shortcuts or skimping on renovation. He said whether we repair or rebuild, it needs to be done right. He said he wants to have a school that will attract graduates from Fieldcrest to return to their community because of its fine schools.
Board member Elizabeth Palm said it still seems like a lot of money to spend on an old building. She too was concerned about finding hidden and costly problems once repair work is started. She felt the repair cost would be somewhere in the range of $10 million dollars from the Cordogan Clark study and $16 million from the Farnsworth study. She agreed with Mr. Hillenburg that renovation should not be done cheaply and should be done right so it will last a long time. It was brought up that it would cost $300,000 to install a new science lab. But she warned that it may not be financially responsible to spend a lot of money on an old building.
The subject turned again to the lack of maintenance on the school buildings. Dr. Oakley said there has been too much deferred maintenance. Mr. Hillenburg said every year there is a major problem that has to be fixed.
He added, however, that the old buildings were built to last whereas buildings constructed in the 1950s and 1960s were cheaply built. The Cordogan Clark engineer concurred saying the older buildings hold up very well. Mr. Hillenburg said a long term plan must include a watch dog committee that ensures that maintenance is done properly.
Mr. Lohr said that the repair costs given by Cordogan Clark usually come within 3% of the original estimate. Mr. Hillenburg said he was impressed with that figure.
Dr Oakley said one of the problems of repairing old buildings is they have to be repaired under more stringent building codes which adds to the cost. Mr. Lohr added that new buildings will require maintenance also from day 1.
Mr. Lohr said because of the declining enrollment he wanted to have a 5 year plan for repairs rather than spending a lot of money on a new building that tax payers cannot afford.
Dr. Oakley said if enrollment continues to decline, a building may have to be closed which had a lot of expensive repairs done. He asked how would the taxpayers react to that?
At the end of the meeting, Mr. Hillenburg and Mr. Lohr talked about having a cost study done on the high school building in Minonk. The Cordogan Clark engineer said a study could be done within 30 to 45 days. He added that the renovation of all the buildings is a viable option.
Ms. Palm did not want to do a study on the high school building stating that a decision must be made soon as time is running out. Dr. Oakley agreed saying a decision needs to be made soon in order to get a plan ready to address the immediate requirements of the Life Safety study.
Dr. Oakley said a board of education meeting will be held next Wednesday, Feb. 21, at the high school gymnasium in Minonk to discuss which direction to go on the building project.
Kayla Jones: Can someone please tell me why building a $30-40 million is a feasible solution to any of this with declining enrollment? They project having to close a building in the future. So yea that makes perfect sense to build this outrageously expensive school that raises our taxes that could potentially be sitting empty. What the hell are some of these board members thinking I just don't understand. These estimates from Farnsworth are a flipping joke. Open your eyes people.
And by potentially sitting empty I mean if we end up having to close fieldcrest all together from major decline in enrollment. Ex. A lot of Taxpayers could move therefore you will see a major decline. If businesses close in area and people have to move for jobs you again will see a decline. State funding and economy.