Mabel-Canton’s School Board held a special meeting on March 5 to discuss needed facility upgrades, and a possible bond referendum that would be voted upon later this year. Members present included Chris Miller, Cristal Adkins, Traci Livingood, Diane Wilder, Dustin Tollefsrud and Superintendent Gary Kuphal. Jason Marquardt participated from a remote location via an audio-visual technology hookup.
Superintendent Kuphal explained that Mabel-Canton has a Facilities and Capital Outlay Committee, and he stated, “One of the things we’ve done as the Capital Outlay (Committee) is each year we take a look at our needs and see how much money we have in two categories, Capital Outlay and Longterm Facility Maintenance, and then we look at the projects and we prioritize them. We bring that to you as a school board for approval… Our focus, in addition to those areas, has been to take a look at our facilities overall… Some of the needs are significant enough that we really don’t have enough money on Capital Outlay or Long-term Facility Maintenance to do it on a pay-as-you-go basis.”
Kuphal shared that the school board previously approved to have a comprehensive facility analysis done, and this list of needs is the result of that analysis. He showed a list of the various identified facility needs, along with an expected cost for each. He stated that some of the more significant areas include roofing, replacement of all windows, upgrades to the heating/ventilation/air condition (HVAC) system, some exterior repairs/upgrades (EFIS, masonry and caulking), and a variety of other areas.
In explaining some of the larger needs in more detail, Kuphal said that the school’s HVAC system will need to be upgraded, which may include transitioning from a steam-based system to a hot water system. He said there are maintenance and upkeep advantages to the hot water system, but it would entail a larger cost up front, since all of the piping would need to be replaced.
“We know we have roof issues,” Kuphal explained, adding that the facility analysis did not find any areas of the roofing to be a “critical need,” but he said, “In the next two years or so, we’re going to have to start replacing it.” He said roughly 55% of the roofing would be prioritized for replacement, and he explained that it’s never a good idea to replace all of the roofing at one time, because then it will someday likely all need to be replaced again at one time, which creates a very large financial burden.
Kuphal stated, “I think we all know that there’s a need to take a look at the gym (floor). And if we’re doing that, we also want to replace the bleachers.” He pointed out that because of asbestos under the gym floor, asbestos abatement would be a necessary but expensive part of the project. Upgrades to the stage area were also listed.
A remodeling of the Media Center was also identified, and Kuphal explained that it would likely result in fewer “stacks” but “it’s much more of an open concept,” with much more technology and comfortable seating. Kuphal said the analysis also suggested additional outside playground equipment.
Kuphal said the list of needs and expected costs includes a contingency factor for each area, in case complications arise. He also said the list is based on worst-case scenarios, so the actual costs could be significantly lower. He then summarized the list of proposed upgrades, saying, “So we have a base plan of $5.7 (million) and if we were to be able to do everything, it would be just a little over 10 million.” He explained the differences between a bond referendum and a levy referendum (“bond to build, levy to learn”), adding that a building bond asks voters to approve a specific dollar amount, whereas a levy is used to run the daily operations of the school and asks for a dollar amount per pupil unit.
The current timeline, Kuphal stated, is that if the board approves the wording of the proposed survey, it would be conducted by School Perceptions, which Kuphal reminded the board is a company with a “really good track record” of helping schools to accurately determine how much of a bond the taxpayers are willing to support. The survey would be conducted in late March to early April, and School Perceptions would then come to a special meeting of the board on April 28 to share their findings and recommendations. The matter would likely then be on the ballot for voters on August 11.
The board voted to approve the survey as submitted, pending a few corrections, which Chris Miller noted, and he called them “miniscule things, mainly typos.” The next regular board meeting will be Tuesday, March 17 at 6 p.m. in the media center. As always, the public is welcome at all open meetings.