School board piecing it together

BROWNSTOWN

The heating, cooling and ventilation systems at Brownstown Central High School haven’t been replaced since the building was constructed in 1964.

School officials agree it’s time to spend money to do just that.

They are in the process of finding a company to perform the work and help make the high school more energy-efficient, which could help the school corporation save money.

Superintendent Greg Walker said he hopes the project is approved by school board members so work could begin in the summer of 2017.

On Thursday, Walker said it was too early in the planning process to have a cost for the project.

He said other school officials and the school board plan to sit down early this month and would likely add some smaller HVAC at the other schools and other projects and then prioritize them to start the process of coming up with costs estimates.

In 2013, the school corporation proposed spending $27 million in security, technology and other improvements at the three school buildings. But a petition drive by school district residents led to that proposal’s defeat. Projects above $2 million are subject to referendum.

A later move by then-Superintendent Roger Bane to avoid the petition drive process by breaking the projects down in proposals of less than $2 million per school was rejected by the school board.

Since the taxpayers thought it was too much money to spend at once, corporation leaders decided to spread the projects over several years. The big priority is to not raise property taxes, Walker said.

In the past couple of years, the corporation has been able to make security and technology upgrades.

Next up is a new HVAC system at the high school. Windows and doors will be evaluated to see what can be done to make everything energy-efficient.

“We have debt coming off, so in 2017, we can do about $7.5 million without raising property taxes,” Walker said. “In 2020, we have some more debt coming off, so we can do another project.”

During a recent special meeting in the administration office, school board members heard from three EMCOR Construction Services representatives. They explained the work the company would do if awarded the project and how it would provide updates along the way and be transparent from a financial standpoint.

Tim Stamm, business development representative with EMCOR, talked about the Fortune 500 company being Indiana’s largest and the nation’s third-largest mechanical, electrical and plumbing contractor.

EMCOR, which focuses on the design/build aspect and self-performs 85 percent of the work, has performed construction services on more than 100 guaranteed savings contract projects since 1995. Several of those projects were at K-12 Indiana public schools.

Craig Martin, business development manager for EMCOR, said the company relies heavily on summer construction jobs at schools.

“We understand your business. It is our business of educating youth and providing great learning environments for kids in our public schools, so we take that very seriously,” he said.

Kevin Livingston, construction manager for EMCOR, said the company would help the school corporation with efficiencies in energy and operation.

EMCOR would look at the corporation’s utility bills over the past two years and compare that energy usage data to a baseline energy usage. It also would look into operational usage of equipment and see how it could run more efficiently and effectively.

EMCOR representatives would work with school administrators and facility personnel before and during the project.

“We’ll make recommendations on operations of the facilities, but you guys know your buildings better than we do, so we don’t come in and tell you how to operate your buildings,” Livingston said. “We’ll ask you how you operate your buildings, and we’ll make recommendations on maybe how you can do it better.”

Walker said the corporation has worked with various companies for past projects, and he wanted to have EMCOR present to the school board since the company has a different way of performing work.

Walker said the school board will hear from other companies in the coming months and learn cost estimates, and he hopes to be able to award the project in the spring.

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Zach Spicer is a reporter for The (Seymour) Tribune. He can be reached at zspicer@tribtown.com or 812-523-7080.