Parker school board discusses possible future building plans

Dawn Rye |Writer

During last week’s Parker school board meeting the board made a motion to move forward with hiring Koch Hazard to complete a facility study of the school itself. 

Superintendent Donavan DeBoer said he spoke with Chris Brockevelt with Koch Hazard Architects because the group worked together to create the updated track complex. DeBoer explained that he spoke with several superintendents because he wanted to know the next step. They suggested a review of the facility. He felt it was important the school work with someone they knew and felt comfortable with. DeBoer said the range of reviews went from $8,000 to $25,000 for a facility review. 

Some of the services Koch Hazard Architects could provide the school was to assess the current conditions of the existing school, develop a preliminary space program and review, work with the district to confirm appropriate amounts for “soft cost” and develop a couple of alternative layouts based on space and configuration.

“My recommendation would be if we are going to move forward I feel like we need some professional input here to find somebody that knows what he’s doing. I believe that Chris can then add price tags to some of this stuff too,” said DeBoer.

Board member Erin Anderson questioned the statement of work when it comes to architects and owning the plans. She said when some of the plans are developed are any of the documentation of the schools? 

DeBoer said the only thing he could answer in the long run is if the school board decides to move forward, the school can select the architects. He explained with Koch Hazard, they would eat the $5900 somewhere else in the project after they received the bid. 

Board member Ransom Jones noted a study like this would be incredibly valuable in the decision-making process. He noted this type of information would be worth the cost and a huge asset for the board’s decision making. 

“I think this is the right first step,” commented Jones.

Business manager Jim Vogel explained at this point in time, Koch Hazard is familiar with the facility and has been since the early ‘90s. He said when it comes to picking an architect the board can entertain the idea of bidding out and review competitive bids. 

DeBoer noted that he spoke with ICS, a company that would do similar work, however, they would also do a census bureau and look into the community. He explained they were about $12,000. 

“To me, a bang for a buck is the best thing we have going. Plus Chris knows our facility and they know us and we have worked with them a bunch,” said DeBoer. 

Jones said that it is a nice plan of services that Koch Hazard is going to provide and pretty encompassing of what the school is looking for. He said that he is excited to see what they come up with. 

Chairman Jason Chester said to benefit Koch Hazard moving forward the school needs to set a timeline. He noted this was a discussion the board needed to work on now. It would be unrealistic not to give them a time range, explained Chester. He commented the information would be that much more relevant, whether the board is thinking three to six years from now. 

Jones said Koch Hazard is going to come in and do a study and it looks like from there, bullet point number one they are going to assess the current conditions of the facility. The board would receive immediate feedback on the cost analysis and where the board needs to go structurally. He noted the more information they give them and what the board is considering and being as transparent as possible is what they need to do. 

Chester explained the catch to this is the higher the dollars per year put in, the more the board is going to say no over the next four years. For example, if the board would set aside $400,000 per year the board would probably not build anything. He said with the budget there was not a whole lot of leeway by covering the basic expenses. 

Vogel noted essentially around $600,000 a year on average is what the school spends. He said if the board locks in a plan of $400,000 out of their $950,000 levy and put it into a building reserve it would just knock $50,000 off. However, if a big project comes up something else is going to have to give explained Vogel. 

Jones said he is certainly under the notion the school is not going to be able to save themselves “into a new school.” He noted he is also in favor of a considerable amount of savings as a relative term for showing the level of commitment the board has to a new building as far as putting money aside. He believes that the board should not put themselves in a position where they are unable to maintain and continue with the quality of education that Parker is known for in this school district. He said he doesn’t believe it is a good decision to jeopardize any of the educational expenses that the board currently knows. However, if this idea was the case the board is going to have to make some serious decisions in two years, Jones noted.

Chester said that his number based on the budget is $300,000 set aside per year for five years which would be $1.5 million, which might be 10 percent of the project, but he thinks is reasonable. He noted the project could be from $10 million to who knows what. Chester explained this amount would give the board a little leeway for odds and ends or a project that might come up. He noted to him it shows a solid commitment that would show people the board is working toward something. 

Anderson noted in her opinion the new school needs to be open in five years. 

DeBoer said it is a three-four year process from the current discussion to develop committees to opening doors. 

Vogel noted the funding mechanisms depend on the final plan. He explained the school would exceed capital outlay certificates for funding a building if it came to a certain dollar amount. Vogel said it would require a bond and a bond vote and it would lock in a specific levy for the bond itself. 

DeBoer said for capital outlay certificates that is more of a board decision if they wanted to go that route. A bond extends the project out another year. 

Vogel said if the board pulled the trigger and decided to build a new school on day X at that point in time the funding would be all in place and a form of a bond issue that would generate a line number of dollars to fund the project. He explained the bonding vote would take place after all the plans were completed and that there is a hard dollar estimate. Vogel said the bond vote must pass by 60 percent or greater and the public is not voting on the building, they are voting on the bond. 

Jones said to Chester that his figure was spot on and he likes the idea that the board doesn’t need to hurry and that the board takes their time.

Chester noted the vote must take place a few years before building a new school would go into effect. He said that realistically there could be a million dollars sitting there and the school district is still setting money aside. 

“I just think it is a little more palatable to the voters if you have a little longer track record of money set aside,” commented Chester.

DeBoer said the more the school board has this discussion month in and month out, eventually, just something the board has talked about, they might not have to campaign so hard because the board has been so transparent with the community. 

Board member Brett Olson said he believes too that $300,000 is a good number. He believes the board needs to place something on the back end that shows the end date. He noted the board should stay firm with their decision if the board is looking at 2026 if it comes to fruition.

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