Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

Board gearing up for another referendum

by Steve Targo

May 03, 2012

LINN — At a ground-level glance, Reek School looks fine. During a telephone interview Friday, Administrator Joe Zirngibl said it’s in good enough shape to remain open.

But he identified some of the reasons why officials are looking at — or perhaps bracing themselves for— another referendum.

“The roof has had 18 years, and at 20, it’s had a full life,” Zirngibl said. “The brick should be replaced as soon as possible, but it’s not at the point where there’s any danger involved. The windows, yeah, they’re wearing out, too, and they shouldn’t be.”

The next steps involve setting a date for another election and deciding on the cost and scope of the project.

“The conversations have been trying to decide exactly when,” Zirngibl said. “The state moved the primary that was normally in September to August, so this is a possible date. Then, there’s the possibility of a special election or waiting to the November presidential election.”

Although there isn’t a cost estimate yet, Zirngibl said the cost will be “whittled down” from the $3.9 million price tag which came with the first two failed referendum projects.

“What happens by whittling it down is, instead of projecting what needs to be taken care of over the next 20 years, we have to look at what we can take care of in the next 10 years,” he said.

This likely will at least be discussed Thursday, May 3, at 6:30 p.m. Zirngibl said the board changed its regular meeting date — it usually meets the first Monday each month — because two board members had scheduling conflicts.

What seems to be driving Reek officials to pursue another referendum project are the little structural problems at Reek which, if ignored, could present a bigger dilemma in the future, according to Zirngibl.

Most of these problems are in the 1993 addition to the school. That’s where the brick is flaking, or to be technical, spalling. Imagine lava rocks smashed pancake flat.

But there are other areas of disrepair. Zirngibl said the addition’s wood-frame windows also are deteriorating. He said a couple of windows already needed to be fixed.

“It’s not on a massive scale, but one or two things make a difference,” he said about the problems with the school building. “So far, all of these things are able to be handled under the budget.”

According to Zirngibl, less than $1,000 has been spent on repairs so far. But repair needs aside, other building systems are aging and need upgrading, such as the school’s computer system.

In June, the school will undergo a service upgrade to improve its Internet access capabilities.

“It’s critical for students to keep up with the world, and as you add more students to the Internet and increase its use, it’s harder on our bandwidth (capabilities),” Zirngibl said. “We’re tripling our bandwidth this summer and they’re bringing fiber optics in.”

An upgrade he said was largely covered by grants — but he didn’t have a cost estimate for it Friday — this also was part of a $3.9 million repair/renovation project which failed twice at the polls. Reek School Board put forth referendums last year in April and October. Both times, the referendums failed by narrow margins. In October 2011, it failed by four votes.

But for what Reek has spent on repairs so far since Zirngibl became administrator last July, the School Board is spending more than five times that amount for a recommendation.

Zirngibl said on April 4, the Reek School Board hired architectural firm McCormick and Etten, Lake Geneva, to perform “initial work” and submit drawings for $5,000. The firm may present its work May 3.

Then, the board presumably will take the next step.

“They’ve got to decide the scope of the project, to develop a cost estimate and a referendum question,” Zirngibl said. “We’re going to try to narrow it down at the May 3 meeting. It all depends on how much discussion we have. … They could decide to carry on the discussion, too, and wait a while before they make a decision.”