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Panels to review playground equipment bids

The Lindbergh Board of Education is holding out on selecting a bidder to renovate its elementary school playgrounds so "playground planning committees'' can review the options.

The renovation of the playgrounds at all five of the district's elementary schools is a part of the work associated with Proposition 4, a $14.1 million bond issue approved by voters last year.

The Board of Education last week decided to let the district's five elementary school planning committees, which include elementary school principals, school staff members and parents, have more say in what will be included in the work.

Bids for the remainder of the Proposition 4 projects were accepted by the board during a special meeting last month. The final bid for the playground work is scheduled to be considered Tuesday, April 13.

Pat Lanane, assistant superintendent of finance, told the Call that the delay won't stop the new equipment from being ready at the beginning of next school year.

Playground equipment at the five elementary schools must be replaced because of deficiencies and safety concerns. The current wooden equipment contains arsenic, a poison. Some of the equipment is more than 15 years old.

"Some of it looks pretty good,'' Lanane said. "It hurts to tear it down, but the problem is, (the arsenic) is going to be a problem forever, and kids get splinters.''

Though equipment is coated every year to make it safe, board members decided that now is the time to fix the problem. The new equipment will be metal-based.

The bids submitted were Hutchinson & Associates, $431,869; Gateway Recreational, $445,752.43; Cunningham Associates, $326,482; and Lake Contracting Inc., $338,166.00

The delay is not a result of funding issues, Lanane said, noting that all four bids fit within the budget. But the district won't mind saving money if a company charging a lower fee meets the committees' standards.

The district has a planning committee for each school, according to district spokeswoman Mary Meyer, who said the committees will look at playgrounds built by each bidder before offering recommendations to the Board of Education.

In a separate matter March 9, the Board of Education voted unanimously to select a bid from UMB for the purchase of $8,925,000 of general obligation bonds to be issued by the district.

The issuance will pay off bonds originally issued in 1996. The advanced refunding of the 1996 bonds will result in a savings of $733,137 to district taxpayers.

In a news release, Lanane stated, "The basic concept for the advanced refunding is the same as refinancing a mortgage. We trade a higher interest rate for a lower interest rate."

The sale of the bonds was conducted as an open competitive sale, and attracted 12 bids from various financial institutions, including brokerage firms and banks.

The bonds have an Aa2 rating from Moody's Investor Service, which is the highest rating given to any Missouri public school district.

"The interest savings will work to reduce the tax rate for the district's debt service account," Lanane explained. "While the district won't see an immediate financial benefit, there is real satisfaction in providing this direct savings to the district taxpayers, who have faithfully supported the school district."

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