School requests emergency funds
Superintendent and principal of the Janesville Union School District, Gary McIntire and Board of Trustees President Tom Gauthier, were present at the regular meeting of the LCOE board of directors at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 8 to ask the board for the emergency loan to help the school repair and replace an aging water system.
“Last year, we experienced the failure of a pipe,” McIntire said. “That’s really what got this whole thing started.”
McIntire explained how trying to repair one pipe has ballooned into the school being without a working domestic water supply two weeks before school is back in session. School is scheduled to open Aug. 27.
McIntire explained the school’s water domestic water supply is more than 50 years old, and some of the pipes used in that system are starting to rust and decay to the point where the pipes have burst at least twice already, causing problems from flooding to a potential for contamination leaks in the school drinking supply.
Specifically, McIntire told the board the school’s well for domestic water is also dangerously close to other hazards. He showed pictures to the board of 50-year-old gray water pipes on-campus made of galvanized steel and terra cotta, two materials that have visibly deteriorated over the years. McIntire said if any of these pipes were to fail, they could easily leech contaminants into the school drinking supply.
“What we’re asking for,” McIntire said to the board, “is the funds to repair this to a point where our students can still start school on time.”
McIntire requested a loan from the board not to exceed $125,000 for the repairs. He said he was currently trying to get money from the Office of Public School Construction via a program called a “Facility Hardship” funding source.
In a letter to the board, McIntire stated how the funding worked in detail in his letter to the board prior to the meeting.
“Under this program, whenever a system poses an imminent threat to the health and safety of the students, staff and public, funding is available to repair such a situation.
“However, if our district commits any funds to the project prior to receiving state funds, the Office of Public School Construction will consider the committed funds to be a district contribution. Our district would not be able to contribute to this project without completely depleting our deferred maintenance fund.”
In other words, if the district commits any money to repairing the pipes, it would not only not be able to secure the state funding, but it would have to use up all of it’s deferred maintenance funds. This would make it virtually impossible to carry out any ongoing upkeep of the school grounds.
McIntire and Gauthier said they did not anticipate the costs of the repairs to exceed $100,000, and with the ability to secure state funding, the district would be able to pay back the loan with interest by Oct. 31 of this year, McIntire said.
However, if only able to pay for the repairs through a deferred maintenance program, it would not be able to repay LCOE until December of 2008.
Before approving the loan, LCOE board member Rich Fitzer asked Superintendent of Schools Bob Owens if he was expecting interest on the loan if the board were to approve it. The board discussed what the general policy was on such loan matters, even though everyone in attendance seemed genuinely concerned about the current plight of Janesville School.
McIntire said during the meeting that his district was not going to wait on working on the water system, regardless of when they could secure the money for repairs, because it was under the gun to get the problem solved as best as possible before school started. They have already started working on it.
Besides the domestic water supply, the district has recently had to deal with a number of other maintenance problems.
McIntire told the board the most recent maintenance issue happened just hours before the LCOE board meeting on Aug. 8. It involved the removal of an abandoned underground storage tank under the front lawn and sidewalk of the school. The storage tank was originally used to store fuel oil used to run a boiler for the school, which is no longer in use.
Janesville School was scheduling a modernization project during this summer as well. McIntire said the district was planning on removing a significant amount of concrete to improve ramps and access points to better accommodate Americans with Disabilities Act guidelines. It was able to provide a new modular classroom for the music program as well.
For now McIntire said, the District’s number one priority is repairing the pipe system in time for the start of the school year.
McIntire said even if it means fencing off certain areas of the school during the first initial weeks of school, students would still be able to attend class.
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