City hears overview of school bond issue
By Jessica LeDuc
Blade staff writer
With a bond election on the horizon for USD 333, Superintendent Bev Mortimer gave Concordia City Commission an overview of the project Wednesday night.
On Tuesday, Nov. 5, residents in USD 333 will vote on whether the district should issue general obligation bonds in an amount not to exceed $5.5 million to pay the costs of building, equipping and furnishing an addition and improvements at Concordia Elementary School, which will include classrooms and a FEMA-approved storm shelter; and installing energy conservation measures, including HVAC replacement at CES, as well as lighting and other improvements at other district buildings
Mortimer said the school board has studied the facility needs in the district over the past few years. With rising costs and reduced revenue, Mortimer said, the board looked at options to reduce operating costs and meet district facility needs.
"Our goal was to do something without having to ask for a mill levy increase," she said. "But a two-mill increase is what we currently have now."
The elementary school, which was built in 1996, is the only building in the district without underground shelter or reinforced storm shelter areas. Mortimer said the school board is committed to building a safe room using the most up-to-date FEMA standards to provide a safer facility for the students and staff at CES.
The storm shelter would include four classrooms, restrooms, storage and a computer server room at a cost of $2.37 million. The 7,299 square foot addition would be a free-standing building that would house 611 people.
The shelter would not be just for students and staff, but would be used as a community safe room, Mortimer said. With the Sports Complex and Fairgrounds nearby, it would be used if severe weather moved in during the summer months.
The advantage of going with a bond election, Mortimer said, is the ability to receive 39-40 percent of the total project costs in state aid if it passes.
"If we just tackle the project through our capital outlay mill levy, we get zero-percent state aid and it wouldn't be two mills, it would be 6.26 mills," she said. "If your community votes and gives you permission to do that, I think you're given that state aid because it's a community decision rather than just being an individual board decision."
The other major project within the bond is the replacement of the heating and cooling system at CES. The current two-pipe system costs more per square foot to operate than any other building in the district, Mortimer said, and does not regulate temperature or humidity correctly.
"This is our newest building in the district, and it isn't the most energy efficient," she said. "We spend $1.16 a square foot on utilities at CES as compared to 68 cents at the Junior/Senior High."
The school board has contracted with TRANE to replace the current system, estimated at $2.37 million.
"They guarantee that amount," Mortimer said. "If the project comes in higher, they will pay the difference. If it comes in lower, they'll refund us that amount. They also guarantee we'll see their estimated energy savings, and if we don't they'll write us a check for the difference."
In addition to replacing the HVAC system, the bond also includes district lighting upgrades, meter consolidation, the replacement of the HVAC system in the high school's technical education center, and new lights at the football field.
If the costs of the two projects at CES run higher, Mortimer said those items could be cut from the overall project.
The entire $5.5 million bond would require a two-mill increase above the current mill levy of USD 333. The district will make final payment on the bonds originally used to build CES in 2014.
The 1.97 mills currently being assessed for CES will expire and the debt paid. Therefore, Mortimer said, the new project would require the mill levy to increase by two mills above what is currently being assessed for a total of 3.97 for 20 years.
In other business, the Commission approved a bid from Smoky Hill LLC of $20,531 for the Kristy's Family Restaurant Tax Increment Financing sidewalk replacement project.
Ken Johnson with Campbell and Johnson Engineers said only two bids were received for the project, which had been estimated at $19,696. In reviewing the bids, he said, the main item that was different in the estimate was the cost of mobilization because no local contractors bid on the project.
"With out of town bidders, this was higher than expected," Johnson said.
The project will begin no sooner than Sept. 29, and must be completed by the end of the year. Johnson said the contractor had indicated his crew would be here in October to do the project.
The Commission also took several actions recommended by the Housing Rehabilitation Board for the second round of housing rehabilitations awards. Kansas Sand and Construction of Salina, Kansas was awarded the bid of $28,000 for the residence at 733 East 6th St., while M&R Building out of Abilene submitted the low bid for four selected projects at 314 E. 6th, 724 E. 5th, 408 E. 6th, and 809 E. 6th. Because the Community Development Block Grant allows a contractor to only be awarded three bids, the Concordia City Commission voted to waive the three bid rule.
Based on a recommendation from the Housing Board, the Commission voted to expand the target area for the Housing Rehabilitation program to include East 7th and 8th Streets from Matthew to Lincoln.
An ordinance vacating Kansas Street north of the Econo Lodge in Concordia was approved, as was a right-of-way permit between the city and Cloud County for work required on Plum Road for the south Concordia flood control project.
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