Pine City School Board Votes To Go Ahead With Auditorium Bids, District Office Relocation In 5-1 Vote
On Wednesday morning, the Pine City School Board voted 5-1 to go forward with the latest round of bids that were submitted on the new auditorium project. In a sweeping action, the board also approved to spend an additional $482,842 to relocate the district offices to the front of the building.
Superintendent Wayne Gilman said the timing was right to do both projects at once, and that the district would see a cost savings over having done the two projects separately. Krauss Anderson will serve as the general contractor and subcontractors will be used for the individual parts of the construction process. Ground breaking is expected to take place in July and the auditorium will be useable in the 2014-15 school year.
The auditorium project bids still came in about $226,000 over budget, but Gilman pointed out that some of that money may come back in additional savings over projections. For example, dirt at the auditorium site may not have to be moved as far as was initially expected and the contractors will reduce their price as such. Also, some costs have been built in to shield the building site from cold weather conditions during the exterior wall construction, which will likely be done in the summer now, resulting in additional savings.
School Board member Tim Geisler was the lone dissenter. Geisler said he “just felt that sometimes it’s important that we’re not just a rubber-stamp board, and we look at it and say well, that’s just a little over what I could handle. That’s what it came down to. A little over the threshold when I saw the numbers.” Geisler finished by saying that now that “now that the board has decided, I’m going to support it 100 percent.”
To be clear, the largest add-on in the project was the decision to move the district offices. Mr. Gilman wanted to be sure that people understood that he didn’t come up with this idea, but he does see the need.
“The district office is being moved up in front of the auditorium and built concurrently,” said Gilman. “Again, none of the funds for the auditorium go towards the district office. It’s paid out of separate funds. The two biggest reasons are safety and security. Right now, if you want to visit the district office, any person can come in, get a pass, walk to the district office through the high school, past our kids. Then when they leave, they’re walking past kids, past classrooms; that security is a real problem for us.”
Gilman further explained the current setup doesn’t allow for a separate nurses office, which is desperately needed. Gilman said that by doing the two projects at once, the district will also realize about a 25% savings on the district office relocation project, as opposed to doing that later on down the line.
Also, by doing the project at this time, a large hallway will also be put in connecting the auditorium with the district office and providing easier access for people attending productions at the auditorium. Several board members stressed this as a real positive for functionality purposes. Without this hallway, people leaving the auditorium would just go out a door and outside rather than into a large hallway and back through the main entrance.
Alicia Ascheman also sits on the board and voted in favor of the project, including the relocation of the district offices. For Ascheman, the safety issues were big, as was the need for a separate nurses office and the added hallway.
Ascheman said that “It will be inevitable that we will need (to move) the district offices because of safety concerns. We didn’t necessarily anticipate, when the building was originally built, the changes in health care privacy laws. The hallway makes the new auditorium plan more sensible and the savings in materials and mobilization dollars – along with the current trend of lower construction costs and interest rates – (made) building it now versus later. These were all factors in the decision making process.”
Gilman said that “none of us are happy with what things cost. Inflation has been very difficult. But there will not, probably, be a better time than right now. So in the end, yes, I’m happy with how this has turned out. ”
Gilman also stressed that the project will be done in a way to least impact the students during the next calendar year. For a time during construction, people entering the building may need to use a different door, but those types of decisions will be made further down the line.
“It’s going to be a work in progress,” said Gilman. ” We will do some summer planning to insure that school isn’t interrupted. We’ll make sure to do things in a way that least interferes with student activity.”