After weeks of study, projections, discussions and some soul-searching, the Emmetsburg Community School Board voted Wednesday night to proceed with a project to expand and remodel the West Elementary School. The project, estimated at $2.8 million, will be paid off in eight years, due in part to historically low interest rates on bonds.
"I can't be any more excited about this project," Emmetsburg Superintendent John Joynt told the school board.
Under the final plan, a new competition gymnasium will be built on the southeast corner of the existing building, connected with a new lunch serving kitchen, student commons-lunchroom area and office areas along the south edge of the existing building. Along with the new construction, the old gymnasium will be remodeled to provide classroom space for Title One and At-Risk programs, as well as a new library for the elementary. The old administrative offices will be converted to space for Talented and Gifted classes, a conference room and storage, and the current library will be converted back into a pair of classrooms.
Under the plan, prepared by FEH and Associates of Sioux City, the new construction and site work is estimated at $2,360,380. Along with remodeling costs projected at $66,530, engineering and architectural fees, the total project cost is estimated at $2,821,560. The funding would come from General Obligation School Capital Loan Notes in the amount of $2,170,000. The bonds would be paid back over eight years through revenues from the district's Physical Plant and Equipment Levy.
The board has discussed the idea of adding onto West, the oldest facility in the district, to meet growing student numbers. Student populations and program offerings have increased to the point that there are instances where students and instructors hold classes in hallways, due to a lack of classroom space. Administrators have projected that with the numbers of students in Pre-Kindergarten programs, there would be a need for an additional classroom for the 2014 school year.
"So how do we finance this?" Joynt said. "Looking at current bond rates, we projected 1.7 percent, but bond bids have been coming in at a lot less than that. We've seen anywhere from one and a half percent to two percent, so we're not too worried about percentage."
Joynt noted that the timeline for the project calls for bids to be opened for the construction in late March and approved or rejected on April 4.
"Interest rates are low, its an eight-year payoff, I can't get much more excited about this project," Joynt repeated. "I would recommend we move ahead with this project. The facilities committee is saying the same thing, the interest rates are low, bids are coming in lower than expected for construction and that's exciting, too."
"We've looked at lots of options and plans," agreed West Elementary Principal Joe Carter. "This is a plan that best meets our needs and gives us the additional space and upgrades to our kitchen area and our gymnasium area and provides rooms for our supplemental programs that we don't currently have. It really is a plan that addresses a lot of areas and helps in a lot of needy areas too."
Board member Rick Brennan, a member of the Facilities Committee, expressed his support for the project as well. "There is no better time, based on interest rates, based on portfolio, to retire the debt in eight years. There is no doubt, and I'm sure Mr. Carter and any of the staff will agree, there's a huge need. We don't have enough space down there. Teaching students in the hallwaysthere is no better time."
Brennan continued, "I would endorse this without reservation."
Joynt noted that the even with the projected eight-year payback, the facilities committee had a concern that embarking on a building project would tie the hands of future board members financially. "With the eight-year payback, it doesn't leave a huge debt looming for decades, so it will work well for future boards. This is just a great project to move forward with."
I would recommend you proceed with this project and that would take a board vote this evening," Joynt said. "With a vote to proceed, we would contact the bonding agents and bonding attorneys, as well as the architects and start moving ahead with that. A vote tonight would get started with all that."
"I would make a motion to move forward with the West Elementary building project," stated Brennan, and board member Kim Campbell quickly offered a second to the motion. Board President BJ Schany called for a vote and received unanimous approval for the motion.
"This is a great project that needs to be done," Schany said, bringing the discussion to a close.