Board will put school renovation bond to a vote

WAUSA - The voters in Wausa have a tantalizing election approaching, after the Wausa School Board voted to hold a special election on September 11, 2018 for a 20 year bond of no more than $3 million. 

The ballot initiative will be an all-mail in ballot. Residents will receive their ballots some time in late August and will need to have them turned in by 5pm on September 11. The date these ballots will be sent out has not been made official yet.

The Wausa school building is facing an important decision. The school needs to address multiple issues including coming into compliance with fire code and ADA regulations, structural integrity issues, and vermin.

Yes, vermin. 

The third floor of the original 1913 building has not been used for years other than for storage, and there has been a bat infestation that has created some issues on that floor.

This is part of the multiple reasons why on July 11, the Wausa School board held it’s first of two public meetings regarding the school board’s proposed changes. Superintendent Brad Hoesing started off by saying this has been a two year project of the School Boards that has included focus groups from the community and discussions with professionals about what possible options there are.

The two options are both daunting in size but absolutely needed for future longevity in the school district. Keeping the original 1913 building and renovating it along with other parts of the school would cost $4.23 million, while the proposed project would cost $4.35 million.

“It feels like putting a new engine in an old car,” said Supt. Hoesing.

The Supt. and School Board presented issues discovered by an engineering study done by Infrastructure LLC out of Omaha in February 2017. Here are the issues that were shared at the July 11 public meeting:

North Wing (High School Library, Band, FCS, Business, Science rooms)

  • Building structurally is in good condition. Notice of settling in some areas, but foundation is solid
  • Moderate amounts of asbestos on piping, but it is sealed and inspected annually
  • Does not meet fire code

South Wing (Elementary)

  • Building, structurally, is in good condition. Notice of settling in some areas, but foundation is solid.
  • Large amounts of asbestos in elementary, but it is sealed and inspected annually
  • Bottom Floor is not ADA compliant, top floor is ADA compliant. Does not meet fire code.

Gymnasium

  • Building, structurally, is in good condition. Settling is occurring in the southwest corner, but is minimal and will not deter from the structure
  • Small amounts of asbestos in the tile in the lobby

1913 Building

  • Foundation has vertical exterior cracks, increasing settling
  • Small amount of asbestos in building (Floors, around piping)
  • Noticeable cracks in mortar on the bottom two thirds of the building, will need to be resealed and tuck-pointing.
  • Noticeable damage to the interior of the third floor due to damaged roof years ago
  • Moisture damage to interior hallways on third floor
  • Floor joists on second and third floor after suffering from creep, creating issues in structural integrity of the floor.
  • Many years of bat infestation creates a large hazard of histoplasmosis in the building.

The School Board decided after looking at this breakdown, and talking to numerous focus groups in the community that the best option to present to the community was the renovation and remodel package that costs $4.35 million dollars. 

The proposed bond measure would be a 20 year serial bond. The total amount to be bonded would be $3,000,000 while the projected true interest cost is a little over three percent. This has made the projected required bond levy 5.64 cents.

Hoesing went on to explain that the school district has an existing Qualified Capital Bond levy for 1.5 cents for the boiler. That levy would drop off. The school board also has a current levy of 4.78 cents in the Special Building fund, and if this proposal were to be passed the District plans to lower that levy down to 2.6 cents. So the proposed 5.6 cents subtracted by the Special Building Fund difference of 2.2 cents along with the 1.5 cents from the boiler subtracts the Total Net tax levy increase to around two cents.

According to pamphlets and papers handed out at the public meeting, this would result in someone with a $100,000 valuation paying an extra $20 a year. For agricultural land, it would range from $0.79 to $1.16 per acre depending on what the land is classified at and if it is dry or irrigated land. For all Ag land, it is important to know that the tax is on the assessed valuation, not the market. Assessed valuation is typically 75% of the market price.

“Taking in all of this information is like trying to drink out of a fire hose,” said Hoesing after the meeting.

So what is the proposal?

Well, it comes in two projects and three phases

The first project is to construct a separate building that will be a 105ft x 55ft dual chamber complex. The Wausa Foundation Eunice and Lillian Anderson Industrial Technology and Agricultural Complex will expand that trade classes that are available for students. The building will be a steel beam, insulated panel structure with a brick wainscot to match the current building. It will feature two large bays, one for construction/woods/agriculture and the other for metals/manufacturing/automotive-diesel/agricultural mechanics. 

The Wausa Education Foundation was blessed with nearly $1 million by Eunice and Lillian Anderson. The Foundation granted an allocation of no more than $500,000 to the construction of this building. Total cost of the building (turn key) is $492,000.

After Project One is complete, Project two will begin, with phase three running concurrently with phase one and two.

Phase one involves remodeling the existing shop space and library into four classrooms. The rooms will be for history, foreign language, english and mathematics. Phase two will be tearing down the 1913 building, the front office area, and the breezeway. Phase two also includes replacing the old building with a new structure.

Phase three will be worked on during both phase one and two. Phase three is bringing the rest of the building up to code. That is both per ADA and fire code, including sprinkler systems, new fire alarms, new smoke doors that are ADA compliant.

The Projected completion date would be Fall of 2022, and the goal is to have school time be disrupted as little as possible during the renovations.

Because of the overwhelming amount of information presented, Hoesing and the School Board had a question box where people could submit questions. Hoesing said that him and the School Board wanted to ensure that they answered any question thoroughly, so they wanted the time to do proper research on any questions that were presented.

Before the election takes place, Wausa School Board along with Supt. Brad Hoesing will hold at least one more public meeting. This time it will be more of a round table discussion where anyone interested can voice any points or questions there may be. 

The School Board spent two years drafting this proposal by consulting with an engineer, and architect, multiple focus groups from within the community, along with hours of research and discussion. Now that the plan has been revealed to the public, it is their choice on whether to pass the bond resolution in September.

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