Source: Lake Geneva Regional News

A little too quiet?

by Steve Targo

July 05, 2012

LINN — Reek School Administrator Joe Zirngibl seemed low-key on the phone Wednesday, June 27, almost as if his district wasn’t in the throes of an upcoming referendum.

Then again, in May, Zirngibl said the school board and himself are “running slow to make sure we get everything right.”

It’s a critical juncture for Reek officials, who still want to fix structural problems and improve the design of the school — specifically its 1993 addition.

Twice last year, the school board failed to obtain enough votes to support a $3.9 million referendum project.

On May 3, the Reek School Board approved a motion to go to referendum for another, less costly project — $2.8 million this time.

But where’s the school board now? Architectural and construction firm reps were expected to provide more cost estimates to the board at a meeting Monday.

Zirngibl said there’s no official “rough estimate” yet.

There’s no referendum committee planning hype campaigns, no approved referendum question.

The full scope of the project isn’t even finalized.

“We’re looking at November, with the general election, for a referendum,” Zirngibl said. “We’re a little too early for setting up committees and stuff like that. … Nothing is definitive until we have the referendum question filed.”

He said that question likely will be voted on by the board in August.

That’s also when he expects the board will authorize him to file the question and when the project cost will be finalized.

“Right now, we’re just doing the legwork to get all the numbers correct,” Zirngibl said.

But if the numbers come in greater than $2.8 million?

“We’ll cut parts of the (proposed) project to get it back down,” he said. “So far, with the preliminary estimates we have, we should be in that ballpark.”

Numbers

According to Zirngibl, officials have a wish list of things they want to address in this upcoming referendum, including the much-talked-about deterioration of the 1993 addition’s brick work, roof and windows.

They also are coming up with a project to create a more secure entrance to the school and some electrical and plumbing upgrades.

But there’s one unknown cost which may figure heavily into the proposal — compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.

It is believed once a project begins at Reek School, it would need meet the requirements of that act.

As it is now, the school building does not have to meet ADA standards.

Zirngibl said it may be more a question of how much Reek has to comply with the ADA act.

“It all depends whether or not we have to completely update to ADA standards throughout the building, or whether we can just (improve) the important school areas, such as the bathrooms,” he said.

“If we can update just the larger bathrooms, it could make a significant difference … in cost.”

But to completely update Reek, they also would have to rebuild the small bathrooms in the kindergarten rooms and the nurse’s office, Zirngibl said.

The degree of meeting ADA requirements may impact the overall scope of the project, prices for which are being worked out by McCormick and Etten, Lake Geneva.

But wait a minute. Why get estimates when the board already had a project on paper last year?

Zirngibl said school officials want to verify that the numbers from the last project are still viable.

“So far, the estimates we have gotten have come in pretty close,” he said.

On Monday night, the board was expected to talk about cost estimates for the exterior of the building and updating the alarm, intercom and bell systems.

Time

At this point, there apparently is no urgency. Zirngibl said at the June 14 board meeting, there was only one resident in attendance.

However, when the 2012-13 school year resumes Sept. 4, it could be a different story.

Zirngibl said right now, it’s too early to send people door-to-door with information pamphlets or to have them calling district voters, urging them to support this third referendum.

But why?

After all, the first two defeats in this attempt by Reek officials to fix the school weren’t landslide losses.

Last April, the referendum failed by 20 votes.

In October, it failed by four.

Wouldn’t it be wise for project supporters to beat the drum loudly as soon as possible?

According to Zirngibl, no.

“If we do this now, many of the town’s people won’t make meetings regularly,” he said, adding that most people will take vacations and not think about school during the summer.

Zirngibl said in two months, after the referendum project is solidified, he expects the effort to intensify.

“I think people will be more focused and more energized then, and do the things we’ll need them to do,” he said.

As for Zirngibl, when asked how his summer was going, he paused, then replied, “What summer?”