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Talking about aspects of a potential renovation project


A lengthy to-do list could mean a Reek referendum as early as April



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December 01, 2010 | 08:45 AM
Linn — Although Reek School originally was built in 1939, most of the current facility problems are with the 1993 addition.

There's a list of almost 50 items, including the deterioration of the school's brick and windows, a roof and chimney in need of repairs and flooding and leaking with nearly every rainfall. Recently, members of a special Reek citizens committee, School Board members and district staff and officials voted on which issues are the most important.

Those issues prompted builders, architects and financial experts to talk about the possibility of a referendum Thursday, Nov. 18, at a special committee meeting. At a meeting scheduled for Monday, Dec. 6, the committee is expected to narrow the focus on what the proposed Reek School project will cover.

Representatives from Miron Construction Co., Neenah; Eppstein Uhen Architects, Milwaukee; and Robert W. Baird and Co., Milwaukee; talked about preliminary cost estimates and some of the crucial factors to know should the Reek School Board ask district residents to approve a renovation project.

Craig Uhlenbrauck, vice president of marketing for Miron, presented a timeline for the School Board to follow if board members shoot for an April 5 referendum election.

It appears there will be a public forum meeting prior to any board decision on a referendum.

"You'd like to get some feedback from the community," Uhlenbrauck said.

But before that, district officials and committee members may decide on the scope of this project and how much of a tax impact it would have if voters approve it.

As it stands, if the board decided to move forward with every project on the list, the project which would be put to district voters for approval may cost about $4.9 million.

Top issues

According to vote tally presented Nov. 18, the five top issues are:

n Replace exterior brick walls and brick window sills with stone.

n Replace all windows.

n Design and install an exterior storm water system.

n Create a secure main entrance, reconfigure main office and add a canopy to that area.

n Replace roof on entire building and repair chimney.

There were several items on the list which received no votes, including cabinet upgrades, purchasing new furniture and equipment, upgrading elevator controls and fire alarm systems, replacing science lab faucets and adding an acid dilution basin in the lab.

Eric Dufek, of Eppstein Uhen, said some of the "low-vote" items may occur anyway. He said if the outside bricks are replaced and it causes an old light fixture not to work anymore, an electrical upgrade may be required.

Miron and Eppstein Uhen reps added two items to the list — new flooring and painting and asbestos abatement. Dufek said if the school's heating and air ventilation system were replaced, upgrading the thermostats to digital controllers may be necessary.

With the exception of the proposed building data system upgrade, all other potential aspects of the project have their own line item and cost estimate.

"We're very early in the costing process right now," Uhlenbrauck said.

But he said the votes were used as a guide for builders and architects.

"I don't think anything is taken off the table just yet," Uhlenbrauck said.

That's likely going to be a topic of discussion at the next committee meeting Monday, Dec. 6, at 6 p.m.

Money

Builders, architects and Michel Clark, director of public finance at Baird, said it's up to the board to determine how much the project will cost. If board members chose to just complete the five items which received the most votes, the estimate would be about $1.7 million.

Clark presented three different financial scenarios — one if the Reek School Board proposed a $1 million referendum question, to seek a loan payable in 10 years; one for $3 million paid in 15 years; and one for $5 million paid in 20.

The impact on the district tax rate is going to depend on how much the district borrows.

According to Clark's projections, for the first four years, it would be an extra 15 cents on the district tax rate per $1,000 of assessed value for a $1 million loan. For a $3 million loan, it would be an extra 34 cents for the first two years. It would be an extra 48 cents the first on a $5 million loan. These numbers are expected to decrease somewhat each year.

In terms of how much that would be for each district resident, per $100,000 of assessed value, it would be $15 a year for a $1 million loan, with an assumed interest rate of 4.5 percent, for the first four years. For a $3 million loan, it would be an extra $34 a year, with an assumed rate of 4.75 percent, for the first two years. It would be an extra $48 a year for a $5 million loan the first year, with an assumed rate of 5 percent.

"When we work with school districts, we always say, ideally, you like to keep the (tax rate) impact under a dollar," Uhlenbrauck said. "You have a good story to tell here because your impacts are very minimal."

A what-if scenario

Representatives and the audience also discussed what if the Reek School Board looked into building a new school.

Dufek said if officials wanted to go in that direction, he and the others working with the school could design a plan to place a school on the northeast corner of the current school site. The existing building is on the southeastern corner.

The representatives calculated a rough estimate on the spot. Dufek said for a 21,000-square-foot school which could hold 150 students, the loose figure would be $3.15 million — not including permits, fees and other "soft" costs. Then, the estimate increased to between $4 and $6 million.

Representatives also kicked around the idea of keeping the old Reek School in use while the new one is built. Then, the old one would be demolished.

But Clark offered some cautious words to the audience.

"This is a very typical conversation when these kind of topics come up," Clark said. He said although the numbers might look good, "the community doesn't always accept it."

Dufek asked the audience if this was something they wanted to seriously consider.

One unidentified man said he thinks if it the board did, the community would "freak out."

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