Air conditioning still in limbo; Price tag estimate escalates, sparking concern

Air conditioning still in limbo; Price tag estimate escalates, sparking concern by M. Jill Karolevitz Although it probably won�t be needed anymore this fall, air conditioning at Jolley School is still an issue that the Vermillion School Board plans to study before making a final decision about adding a cooling system to the building.

Earlier this year, the school board intended to install air conditioning at Jolley School during the summer of 2000. Although still under consideration, the project was delayed because all-day kindergarten was approved.

�It was a money issue,� said Superintendent Robert Mayer. �We had the funding for doing the air conditioning, but after all-day kindergarten was approved, the board decided to use that money for the addition of two new kindergarten rooms and put air conditioning on hold.�

DLR Group of Omaha, NE, the architects for the classroom addition project, will soon start designing plans for the addition, which will cost an estimated $200,000.

The Jolley School boiler also came into the picture at the beginning of the school year. After inspection during the summer, it was determined the boiler �was on its last legs� and needed to be replaced, Mayer told school board members during their Aug. 14 meeting. The project was later approved and completed this week, at a cost of about $110,000, which included tearing out the old boiler and installing the new one.

School board members discussed air conditioning once again during their Sept. 25 meeting. It�s also on the agenda for Oct. 9.

On March 13, Brian Miller, sales office manager for Johnson Controls, Sioux Falls, the primary heating and air conditioning provider for the Vermillion school system, presented information about air conditioning options for Jolley School. One option, although not formally approved by the school board (but is preferred), would replace each room unit, eliminate steam heat, convert to a water system and add a central chiller. It also included replacing the boiler.

The estimated cost at that time (for installation in the summer of 2000) seemed feasible to the school board. Johnson Controls, however, has now estimated that the project will cost about $85,000 more, even after subtracting the cost of the now-completed boiler project, which was paid for by funds the school district already had. In a letter to the school board, the company said the price escalation is due to inflation and �loss of economies of scale.� The question the school board faces now, is how to pay for the project, if it is approved.

School board President Tom Craig presented information Sept. 25 to his fellow school board members regarding how to pay for the project, which he rounded up to a total figure of about $386,000.

�We are now in the last year of paying off a capital outlay certificate,� Craig said. �There has been money set aside to pay that off, but the figure was also put in this year�s budget, so basically, we have that amount twice in our capital outlay fund.�

Craig also explained that money has been set aside over a period of years to buy school buses, should the board decide in the future not to contract out that service.

�We just signed a five-year contract with the bus company, which means it would be that long before we look at buying our own buses,� he said.

Undesignating the �extra� capital outlay certificate pay-off funds, as well as doing the same for a portion of the funds that have been set aside for the purchase of school buses, along with using some of the capital outlay fund balance, gives the school board enough money to work with for the air conditioning project, less about $86,000. That figure could be borrowed in the form of capital outlay certificates, Craig said.

In the end, should the school board decide to go ahead with the air conditioning project at Jolley School, the capital outlay fund balance would be reduced, which sparked some concern among the school board members.

The school board will continue to discuss the project on Oct. 9 � how to pay for it, whether or not to hire Johnson Controls (with whom it has a design-build agreement), for the air conditioning installation, or the board can �start all over again� and bid the project out.

�No formal decision has been made by the school board regarding the Jolley air conditioning project,� Craig said. �We may even, at this point, put it on the back burner.�

The school board on Sept. 25 also discussed Investing in Education, a coalition formed to lobby the South Dakota State Legislature �to invest money for education in this state,� Mayer said. The coalition, which includes several of the larger South Dakota school districts, the SD Education Association, and the Associated School Boards of South Dakota, is hosting several forums to discuss the state�s education funding.

Vermillion will host a forum Oct. 11 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Vermillion High School library. Candidates and incumbents in the State Legislature have been invited to participate and the public is welcome to discuss education issues.

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