Cooling tower leaking at LincolnWashington School Board discusses facility maintenance plans
At a work session covering facility maintenance plans Wednesday evening Washington School Board members learned there was an issue with a cooling tower at Lincoln Elementary School. They also discussed the issues with the current middle school building.
“In terms of HVAC systems we are in very good shape with one exception,” said Washington Community School District (WCSD) Superintendent Dr. Mike Jorgensen. “If you take a note over there on Lincoln Elementary we have a cooling tower that is leaking. It’s operating, but it’s leaking a lot of water. The quote on repair of that is $33,700. I’m not exactly sure how to advise you on that.”
Jorgensen said he thought that was a lot of money to repair that. He also said in order to replace the cooling tower, window air units would have to be installed in the classrooms, which poses another problem because those windows weren’t designed for that.
School board president Eric Turner asked where the money would come from if the board decided to repair the cooling tower at Lincoln Elementary School. Jorgensen said the money would have to come from the district’s reserves.
“That cooling tower, I assume, is not in any kind of warranty yet?” Board member Stephanie Ellingson asked.
Jorgensen said no. Bill Hartsock, who works in the maintenance department for the school district, told Jorgensen the cooling tower was leaking because of improper maintenance when the system was installed originally.
“My concern is the roof is going to leak and all the tiled ceilings will be damaged,” Ellingson said.
Board member Troy Suchan said he agreed with Ellingson. However, putting in window air-conditioning units would become an issue because the windows weren’t designed for that and would need to be cobbled before installing them.
“Yeah, that’s a lot of money, but like Jeff [Dieleman, business manager for the school district] said, that’s what those funds are for, and instead of not spending the money and spending it on stuff that isn’t maintenance like Stephanie said we could end up with a $100,000 roof bill,” Suchan said.
Also, whether or not there is a leak in the roof may not become known right away, either, Suchan said.
Board member Dana McDole asked if someone would know how to maintain the cooling tower correctly if the board decided to pursue repairing it. Jorgensen said yes—Hartsock would know.
“Is that just one quote we’ve gotten on that?” Suchan asked.
“I think it’s the only one that does it,” Jorgensen said. “I think it’s [the quote] from the original manufacture, because I asked Bill the same thing and he wouldn’t know who else we could get a quote from.”
Jorgensen asked Dieleman how much it would cost to replace the cooling tower. Dieleman said $125,000 to $130,000.
One thing not addressed in the maintenance plans was the middle school, Ellingson said. She was concerned because a portable classroom was still being used.
Jorgensen said there are a number of issues with the middle school, not just having a portable classroom, which would need to be addressed. He said the plumbing wasn’t good and the electrical issues, which were being addressed as much as they could be. He estimated the current building would not last any further than 2025.
“It’s just old,” Jorgensen said. “It just has a lot of things that need fixing. Like I said, we’re addressing doors and lights, but it’s just putting a Band-Aid on a serious wound.”
Jorgensen estimated $15 million in repairs would need to be put into the building to keep it sustainable or $20 million to $25 million to build a new middle school.
Board member Heidi Vittetoe said other ideas, such as expanding relationships with other districts, needed to be communicated with the public so they could have some time to think about the condition of the middle school.
Jorgensen agreed with her. He also said there was something else the board needed to think about.
“The other thing to put out there is if the Y does build out at the wellness park, then maybe that’s where we need to put the middle school,” Jorgensen said.
Board member Ericka Raber said she also liked the idea of communicating the options for the middle school to the public. She also brought up the idea of sharing a middle school with another school district.
Jorgensen agreed with Raber. He said some people would be shocked by that suggestion, but it is what the smaller school districts are doing. He also said he wouldn’t be surprised if WCSD weren’t approached by another district with this opportunity.
“If we were to have some type of sharing, which one of our facilities would be able to absorb students?” Turner asked.
“Probably the high school,” Jorgensen said.
Raber again said this would be an idea that would need to be communicated with the public.
Board member Patty Roe asked how WCSD would let others know if they were interested in sharing facilities. Jorgensen said WCSD would probably be approached first and said it would most likely happen in the next three to five years.
Dieleman also told the board he thought the issue wasn’t the age of the middle school building but the fact that some members in the public feel the issues at the middle school were already resolved.
No decisions about facilities in the school district were made during the work session.