REEDSVILLE - Mifflin County School District officials continue to discuss proposed renovation projects to two district buildings with critical deadlines for a final decision approaching.
On Thursday, the Mifflin County School Board held a special workshop meeting at Indian Valley Elementary School to hear an update on potential renovation projects to that facility and to the Mifflin County Junior High School.
On hand was Vern McKissick, president of the architecture firm McKissick Associates of Harrisburg, as well as representatives from Reynolds Construction. Prior to the workshop session, McKissick walked school board members through the elementary building to review the specific areas of work included in the proposed project that would expand the school's capacity and bring the facility up to code.
Even though the school board has yet to give final approval to the IVES project, it has approved several preliminary phases over the past several months in anticipation to the final vote which, according to McKissick, would need to come by October for the project to proceed on schedule.
Should the board approve the $10.45 million project, the school's capacity would be increased to 775 students as compared to the current capacity of 580. In addition, McKissick said the October vote is crucial with regard to state reimbursement on the construction.
"We're getting to the point where you'll need to make a decision on Union Elementary School," McKissick said. "The Department (of Education) tells us that the reimbursement would be $3,978,000 with Union closed. If it were to remain open, the reimbursement would drop to $3,299,000. So we're talking about a difference of $679,000."
Todd Buzard, vice-president of estimating for Reynolds Construction, gave board members a briefing on the proposed time schedule to do the work, which would include creating classroom space in the areas where the music suite and shop classes are currently located, as well as numerous renovations to common areas such as the cafeteria and library.
Basically, Buzard said the construction would last approximately one year, beginning in January and continuing until January 2014. Work would be done during the school year, Buzard said, but the majority of the work would take place next summer.
"During school we could include in the bidding process to do a majority of the work at night so as to avoid too many instances of children being too close to the construction," he said. "It's our preference to have the night work."
Also on the table for discussion was a plan to replace several boilers at the Mifflin County Junior High School, however, board members were in agreement to vote on rejecting the latest round of bids in favor of looking into a larger-scale project that would include better reimbursement and funding to do more renovations than just boilers.
"We could go with a Plan Con-ESCO project, very similar to the one at Indian Valley Elementary," McKissick said. ESCO is a financing strategy that utilizes the combination of an Energy Savings Contracting Organization (ESCO) and a state-aided PlanCon project that could see the work get done at little or no cost to the district through energy savings incurred as a result of the projects, according to McKissick.
McKissick said the junior high school project may not qualify for the ESCO, however, because energy cost savings could be limited with the building already on a natural gas fuel source.
Dallas Stahlman, director of buildings and grounds, said a decision on the boilers at the building, home of the former Indian Valley High School, is not critical at this time.
"At the junior high I figure we can go three years maximum," Stahlman estimated. "We'll continue to have piping failures in that building, I'm sure. But a major failure? I'm comfortable saying three years."
Board members also noted that the direction of the Mifflin Juniata Career and Technology Center moving forward could have an impact on the junior high school. Studies are under way to determine whether or not to keep the classes in the current building or close it and move them to the junior high building. On July 26, the board voted to end the district's relationship with Juniata County at the CTC beginning with the 2013-14 school year.