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Front Page » July 17, 2014 » Carbon County News » School Board facing big-ticket decisions
Published 65 days ago

School Board facing big-ticket decisions


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By RICHARD SHAW
Sun Advocate publisher

The Carbon School Board is looking at their capital outlay master plan, because some major things need to happen in the next few years.

One of those is the decision on what will be done with Helper Junior High.

The other is concerning indebtedness on bonds that will begin to be paid off in the next couple of years.

School districts have the ability to bond for money for capital projects such as improvements to buildings and new construction. With many of the buildings in the district getting older, the board will have to make some major decisions over the next few years. That is why the master plan is so important. A master plan, that can run from five to 20 years, can be used to plan for those eventualities.

It appeared last winter that the district had the decision to build a new Helper Middle School wrapped up. A piece of land for the new school, north of where it is now located was under scrutiny and once all the reports were in the board voted building on that site down. Now the school district trying to figure out where else a new school could be built.

But Helper Middle School is only one of many projects that capital monies need to be used on.

This summer construction at Castle Heights Elementary has been going on because of some settling in the building. New piers had to be put in place under the building. Without planning with funding that would have never happened.

At the regular board meeting on July 9, the district's business administrator, Darin Lancaster, addressed the board on the master plan. In its longest form the plan lasts through 2036, but the five and 10 year parts of the plan are what the board usually concentrates on. The plan is also a living and breathing document that has to bend to needs and changes in the district and the area.

According to Lancaster, as he reviewed the plan, some of the major work that needs to be done over the next decade or so includes rebuilding Helper Middle School, replacing the roof, redoing the heating and air conditioning system and making seismic upgrades to Mont Harmon Middle School, a large renovation to Sally Mauro Elementary and the renovation or a rebuild of Carbon High School.

Tied into these major projects are a lot of smaller things that add up quickly. For instance, under discussion at a number of board meetings in the last few months has been the renovation of the soccer field at Carbon High. Players and coaches (along with many teams that will not come to Carbon to play games because of the field) have been talking about it for a long time.

The time to reconstruct the field must work within the confines of the use of the field. With boys soccer in the spring and girls soccer in the fall, the plan must be perfect to get the job done early enough in the summer after spring play is completed so that it will be ready for fall play. While many levels of cost have been thrown around to either renovate that field or redo the football field so that it is soccer friendly over the past couple of years, Lancaster said that the cost to renovate the present field will be much less than expected.

"We had Jones and DeMille do a preliminary cost on redoing he field and it came in at $150,000," he told the board.

For many on the board that was a much better deal than the $800,000 that had been talked about for the football field conversion.

Carbon School District Superintendent Steve Carlsen said that after that was discussed in a meeting he felt the district should concentrate on just the soccer field and forget about any of the more costly plans, which many wanted to see happen.

"Making that workable would be the way to go," said Board President Wayne Woodward. "It thing that is viable, in fact a real bargain."

Some discussion took place about the top flight facilities other school districts had for soccer and other sports but it came down to what is really affordable.

"It would be nice to have a top of the line field," said Board Member Kristen Taylor "But it is not always realistic."

The board also had a discussion about meeting capital outlay budget deadlines. Carbon High School was requesting an upgrade to their sound system in the auditorium, but had missed the deadline for submitting costs for that in their budget. Taylor felt that if the money had not been put in the budget in the first place, it should wait until next year. Board President Wayne Woodward felt however that sometimes that things happen and that the board should consider requests like the one before them. To complicate the matter the high school only had an estimate from one company for what money they would need to do the project.

"I worry about having dollar amounts with no real bidding process having been done," said Board Member Jeff Richens. "I also feel we need firm numbers before the board should approve anything."

But Lancaster pointed out that the district does this kind of thing all the time.

"We often get a preliminary cost, and then put out the bids," he said.

The discussion of the master plan included a handout that Lancaster generated for the board that showed not only a time line but the funding possibilities through bonding over the years. There are bond series still being paid but they are being paid off quickly. Right now the school district is only indebted with bond series through 2021, with one large bond being paid off next year, cutting in half the payments that must be made..

Lancaster pointed out that the district has the opportunity to turn that ability to bond into money to build what is needed. For instance the 2015 bond retirement was to be used for the new Helper Middle School.

It was also brought up that the core of Carbon High School is now well over 50 years old and construction of a new facility or a total renovation would have to take place somewhere in the next decade or so. The cost on building some new high schools now is approaching $100 million. However, Woodward pointed out that if a new high school was built on the existing soccer field and then the total cost would be much lower because sports facilities and parking lots, along with other things would not have to be built as they would at an entirely new site.

The board ended the discussion with the idea that the master plan is aging and evolving and needs to be looked at further to provide for proper facilities and equipment for the district over the next few years.

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