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Cooler classrooms ahead for Junior High

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Over the objections of two board members, McCook Public Schools' board of education Tuesday evening approved a contract with a Kearney company to install air conditioning at the junior high.

Concerns about America's economic woes and optimism about maybe getting a lower price later caused Larry Shields and Shane Messersmith to cast "No" votes to the bid from the Siemens Co. to air condition the junior high for $392,886.64.

An estimate from Trane was $442,800 (electrical work and chiller included).

Siemens' base bid was $377,562. Electrical costs add $12,324.64, and a chiller adds $3,000, for a total of $392,886.64.

The project will be paid for using these funds:

* $160,000: $80,000 set aside in each of the last two years in a long-range planning fund for large-scale projects

* $114,000-$120,000 in a state apportionment (an amount of money separate from yet part of the state aid to schools formula based upon each school district's needs and/or situations. That apportionment payment is in the bank, Superintendent Dave Schley said, having come about a month ago.)

* $100,000 unused in the fossil fuels fund (in the budget but not used because the price of gas and diesel hasn't been as high as last budget year)

* $13,000 to $19,000 (depending upon the state apportionment) from the district's cash reserve.

This formula uses money that the school district has on hand, said board president Tom Bredvick said, and does not depend on "future" money that the district has yet to collect. Because of careful future planning and over-estimating expenses and under-estimating revenue, Bredvick said, "We can cover the cost of the air conditioning."

Schley told board members, "This is a good price, and the funds are available. It's the right thing to do at the right time." He added, "We won't get this price again. Siemens did sharpen their pencils."

Messersmith muttered, "Pessimists ... " when he was told that the likelihood of prices coming down in the fall (after the 2009-10 budget is written) is slight. W Design's Greg Wolford, who worked with Siemens and Trane to fine-tune initial proposals, said he "firmly believes" that if the board waits, prices will go up.

Jim Jumps, a member of the school district's maintenance division, told board members that an estimate for air conditioning the junior high in 2004 was $150,000.

Messersmith said he wants to wait until after the school knows how much state aid it will receive for the 2009-10 school year, bemoaning the fact that the district's increase in state aid could be only $941. He said the building has been without air conditioning for 43 years, it won't hurt to wait until September to "see where the state aid is."

Bredvick said that transferring the $100,000 unused in the fossil fuels fund to the district's cash reserve puts the cash reserve dangerously close to the state-mandated cash reserve limit of 35 percent (of a district's budget in its cash reserve). "I don't feel bad spending the fossil fuel money" on the air conditioning, he said.

Fellow board member Maury Green agreed, saying that the board will have to spend down the cash reserve if it gets too high.

Bredvick told Messersmith, "We're not being fiscally irresponsible with tax payers' money. The health of our district is the best possible today."

Green said an increase in the cost of the project could be "giant" if the board waited. Messersmith said, "It could go down." Green said, "It's not going to go down."

Wolford said that Siemens' final bid is about $70,000 less than an initial proposal presented last month. "This bid last fall would have been guaranteed for five days" because of the fast-rising cost of copper, Wolford said. Siemens' bid is good for 30 days. "I firmly believe if you wait, the price will go up," Wolford said.

Shields wanted to table the issue until the school district receives federal stimulus funds. "I don't want to spend money I don't have," he said. He said that the school district was "in a hole" three years ago and had to cut programs. "I won't be a part of that just so we can be physically comfortable," he said. He called it, "robbing Peter to pay Paul."

Schley reminded Shields, however, that the $759,000 in federal stimulus funds "have nothing to do with" the air conditioning project because those funds must be spent on special education and could not be used to fund McCook's air conditioning project.

Shields is concerned about the American economy and its impact on the McCook school system. He said, "I don't give a crap what anybody says. We're in a recession ... this country is in a recession."

Bredvick reminded Shields, "This money has been collected. We do have the money in the bank."

Shields and Messersmith cast the lone "No" votes on the motion from Green to enter into contract negotiations with Siemens for an air conditioning project not to exceed $392,886.64. Green, Bredvick, Scott Johnson and Diane Lyons voted to proceed with the project.

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Good job, school board. Mr. Messersmith, Mr. Shields, pull your heads out.

-- Posted by bandmom on Thu, Apr 16, 2009, at 11:15 AM

Are we shocked at the vote? Sounds like Messersmith and Shields are voting the same again.

Shame on you. Thanks to the others for thinking of our students and teachers. The money is there-use it.

-- Posted by mrbj on Thu, Apr 16, 2009, at 9:42 PM

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