To bond or not to bondSchool board to discuss alternative to holding an election for boiler funding
Washington Schools Superintendent Mike Jorgensen said today that an unused loan guaranty might be an alternative to a bond referendum to replace the boiler in the former Washington Junior High School.
Jorgensen said today that when the two boilers in the district’s 1918 building were replaced last year, a $250,000 loan had been arranged from a local bank that would have been repaid with Physical Plant Equipment Levy (PPEL) funds. He said that the project was completed with grants and donations funds, meaning the loan had not been used. He said that the option of taking out the loan is still available to the district.
“That only replaces the boilers and it doesn’t do any of the other work,” he said. “I am now questioning if we want to do all the work for a bond issue — and typically you don’t do a bond issue for less than $1 million.”
During the Jan. 9 meeting, the school board had approved moving forward with a $900,000 bond referendum in June to replace the boiler. Jorgensen said that information is still being gathered on replacing the infrastructure for the boiler. He said replacing the boilers in the 1918 building cost about $240,000. The remainder of the bond referendum would have been used to replace windows, ceilings, piping and steam traps.
Jorgensen said that he would rather see the infrastructure improvements done in a bond referendum at a later time that would include a project to redo Lincoln Elementary and put an expansion on Washington Middle School. The bond referendum, he said, would be for about $3.3 million.
“If we just replace the boiler, we certainly aren’t done with the facility,” he said. “Those other upgrades are something that needs to be done.”
He said other sources of funding, such as grants, are being pursued. He also said that since the issue came up, he hadn’t seen much enthusiasm in the community for the project. He said volunteers are needed to get signatures and campaign for the referendum.
“A bond issue is a lot of work and a lot of expense,” he said. “If you are going to go to that work and expense — If you are going to do that, I’m not sure $1 million is worth our time.”
In October, the board learned that the boiler that heats the wing of the new high school that was formerly the junior high barely passed this year’s inspection. Jorgensen said the district was told unless there is a plan to replace it before next year, it would not pass another inspection. He said the boiler, which is the original in the junior high, runs at about 40 percent efficiency, is rusting out along the bottom, and leaks.
Jorgensen said that officially the district is still scheduled to do the bond referendum, but said that could change during the regular school board meeting on Feb. 20.
If replaced, Jorgensen said, a dual boiler system would be installed, similar to the system installed in the 1918 building. He also said the space in the former junior high, which is now part of the new high school, is less than the footage in the 1918 building.
Jorgensen said that the solution would be a “Band-Aid” solution. He said that he is certain the best option would be to install a geothermal system at the building, but said the $2.5 million to do it was cost-prohibitive.