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Recommendation postponed for Oakville Middle air conditioning

The Mehlville School District's Proposition P Oversight Committee recently delayed finalizing a recommendation on air conditioning for Oakville Middle School, citing a lack of information.

The Proposition P renovations proposed for Oakville Middle School include air conditioning, an addition to the cafeteria to reduce the number of lunch periods to three from five and an addition to the kitchen that would allow for future preparation and serving areas when funds be-come available.

During the design phase of the project, asbestos-containing ceiling tile and floor tile was discovered that had not been identified in previous asbestos reports. While the asbestos abatement work and the building addition were completed this summer, the remainder of the air conditioning work was delayed until the summer of 2004.

Renovation work at Oakville Middle currently is projected at $125,000 more than the overall $4.3 million budget — mostly because of a $99,000 fire alarm system replacement.

Furthermore, Randy Charles, assistant superintendent for finance and the district's chief financial officer, told committee members Oct. 15 that the project potentially could exceed the budget by another $25,000 if, for some reason, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources does not award the district an energy efficiency loan that would pay for new boilers in Oakville Middle.

But Charles was confident Mehlville would receive the money since it was awarded funds for the same type of boilers last year for Washington Middle School

"It's as close to a sure thing as you can get," Charles said.

When committee members considered the air conditioning project during a roll-call vote, many committee members said they did not have enough information.

Board of Education member Rita Diekemper, who serves on the committee, said she wanted to know more information about the boilers before she could make a decision. She told Charles a piece of paper informing the committee about air conditioning and other costs for Oakville Middle would be helpful.

Committee Chairman Chuck Van Gronigen questioned whether the committee could even advise board members to go over budget on any Proposition P project.

"If we're going to follow the charge (of the committee), the board should decide to allocate more money into the budget for this project, then, theoretically, if those are the rules we are supposed to be playing by. If we tell the board to go over budget, we're sort of overstepping our bounds and we're really going against what our charge is. Either we stick within the stated budget as approved by the board or it could be grounds for saying no ...

"Right now I don't know what I'd be voting for," he added.

Van Gronigen asked Charles to supply more information for committee members, who were scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday — after the Call went to press — at Bierbaum Elementary School.

Much discussion surfaced regarding the $99,000 in costs relating to a new fire alarm system at Oakville Middle. This summer asbestos ceiling tile was removed and lighting replaced, according to Dwight Dickinson of Dickinson Hussman Architects, the district's Proposition P architectural firm.

"When they went in there and tore out the asbestos ceiling, they ended up tearing out a lot of the existing fire alarm system, too," Dickinson said. "And to go back in and patch that back in didn't make sense because it was an old system to begin with and so I think the district felt it was most prudent to go ahead and put in a new fire alarm system anyway."

Committee member Dave Genthon asked who was responsible for the "mistake." He said he couldn't justify replacing the whole fire alarm system instead of patching what had been disconnected through the asbestos abatement.

"Somebody should be directly accountable for saying, 'I made a mistake,'" Genthon said. "We didn't anticipate a fire alarm system for the tune of $100,000?"

Charles said the asbestos at Oakville Middle was not anticipated.

"We had a report from a now non-existent company that we had a clean building," Charles said. "And obviously that wasn't true, so one problem led to another."

Dickinson said the scope of the asbestos problem was so great at Oakville Middle that the only option available was to re-move all the ceiling tile, which disconnected the alarm system.

"Originally we didn't know that that was asbestos ceiling tile," Dickinson said. "That was not asbestos ceiling tile according to the report that we had when we started working, so there's really nobody to blame. It was an unforeseen situation."

Board of Education members are scheduled to consider Oakville Middle's air conditioning Monday, Oct. 27.

Also, during the meeting, committee members examined the revised reformatted Proposition P budget totaling more than $86.7 million that board members approved in September.

The revised budget totals $14,325,000 more than the original Proposition P budget of $72.4 million that was approved by the Board of Education in October 2001.

District voters in November 2000 ap-proved Proposition P, a nearly $68.4 million districtwide building improvement pro-gram funded by a 49-cent tax-rate increase.

Committee member Mike Levine pointed out some mathematical errors to Charles. The sums of the certificates of participation revenue and the district capital funds outlined for each school in the projected budget were wrong — the numbers did not add up to the totals. The "All Funds" categories for each school on the second page of the document all were incorrect.

Charles said he didn't realize the figures were incorrect, but he would fix the problem and update the budget.

Meanwhile, current district projections indicate the 49-cent tax-rate increase will generate nearly $26 million more over 20 years than what is required to retire bond-like certificates of participation issued to fund the Proposition P improvements.

Current estimates indicate the 49-cent tax-rate increase will generate $170,165,506 through 2022, while the amount needed to retire the certificates of participation is projected at $144,346,224 — leaving a surplus of $25,819,282 in district capital funds. After subtracting $14,325,000 in district capital funds projected to be spent, that surplus totals $11,494,282.

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