By DAVID GREEN
The first step in a proposed bond issue was approved by members of the Morenci Board of Education at a special meeting Thursday.
Although still at a very preliminary stage, the levy would not increase the tax rate paid by district residents. Instead, the existing bond would be continued for a longer period.
The bond would help the district meet maintenance costs at the three existing buildings to address a variety of interior and exterior issues.
During a meeting Thursday, the Building and Grounds committee evaluated three proposals for architects and construction managers.
“With the kind of projects we’re looking at, on their own I wouldn’t even consider hiring a construction manager,” said superintendent of schools Michael Osborne, “but we would have so many projects going on at once.”
Board president Scott Merillat spoke of the advantage of having one company handle the architecture work and another firm to serve as construction manager. With the arrangement, he said, one company will be able to check for problems in the other firm’s plans.
Erica Metcalf, the school’s finance director, suggested hiring the architect now and seeking bids for a manager at a later date. The key to moving forward, she said, is to get the bond documents to the state Department of Treasury as soon as possible.
The committee recommended hiring the Kingscott architectural firm—the company used in the middle school construction project. The board later approved that motion by a 4-0 vote.
The board read through a list of suggested maintenance needs ranging from roofing problems to internet capabilities, from bus purchases to aging plumbing.
The list began with the knowledge that the district has serious technology needs, Osborne said. Michigan is joining a nationwide effort to move standardized testing from paper and pencil to an on-line format. Morenci doesn’t have the equipment nor the internet capabilities to handle that change.
Board members discussed tackling some of the suggested needs even before district residents consider a bond proposal. About $70,000 remains in the building fund from the middle school project and that money must be spent before the current fiscal year ends.
The outside bleachers are a major concern, said board member Phil McCaskey, but there might be more urgent needs. For example, he said, a security system for the school should probably move into the top three items that could be addressed with the remaining funds.
The WiFi system in the school was also listed as a major problem, plus the lack of a filtration system for the heating plants at both school sites.
Cost estimates for the top needs will be obtained for the board’s January meeting to see what might be accomplished with the $70,000.
Other suggested maintenance projects:
• bleachers, inside and outside;
• high school parking lot;
• high school roof;
• bus garage roof and plug-in heaters;
• energy savings projects;
• fire safety alarm problems;
• public address systems;
• elementary school heating system;
• asbestos abatement at the high school and elementary school;
• technology needs, including computers, switches, servers, wireless ports, telephone system.