Creating a bond proposal that will address facility needs and will also be acceptable to voters in Hays Unified School District 489 will be a priority this year, according to the school board president.
An update mainly for new school board members from the district’s buildings and grounds director at Monday night’s school board meeting evolved into a discussion about greater needs in the district.
Buildings and grounds director Rusty Lindsay told board members of projects that his department has done its best to repair and his efforts to save money for replacement projects. But for some equipment, especially in heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, repairs are becoming less easy to accomplish.
For example, heat pumps at the high school are old enough the district cannot find replacements for low-temp switches, which keep the system from pulling in air cold enough to freeze water lines, Lindsay said.
Fan coil units at Roosevelt Elementary School, likewise, are old enough that the district can find only one source for replacement motors, he said.
“Age of everything is starting to catch us as far as what we can do for repairs,” he said. “I’ve been trying to do as much replacement as I can. That’s where I put my budget.”
He has also been able to carry over unused funds for several years to save up for replacement projects and as a contingency fund, but in the last year wasn’t able to put as much aside.
“In a two- or three-year span, I could get $700,000 or $800,000 to put toward an HVAC project. We’re getting to the point where the repairs are not allowing me to do that. Last year I only carried over $100,000 because we used the rest up,” he said.
One of the projects that took more money in the last year was replacing locks at several of the buildings. As his department has replaced keyed locks, they have also added card-reader locks on external doors, he said.
“The first thing we did was go around the perimeter of the building and secured all the outside perimeter with card readers and locks no one has keys to so we could control entries. So that was a little more expensive than I originally planned on,” he said.
Lincoln Elementary, the district’s oldest building still in use, has had the lowest amount of service request tickets filed this year at 16. But that is actually deceiving, Lindsay said.
The heating system is a steam system with cast-iron radiators, he said.
“A lot of them don’t even have controls on them. The staff goes over and turns a valve to get heat when they need it and shut if off when they don’t. It’s very primitive, so there’s not a lot going wrong with it,” he said.
Wilson Elementary’s low service needs are also a bit deceiving, he said, in that the maintenance staff there has simply quit submitting tickets for equipment that continually breaks down.
“There’d probably be more tickets if they put them in with the expectation they’re going to get fixed, but they know there’s just a certain amount that we can’t fix. They’re basically not submitting tickets because they know it won’t do any good,” Lindsay said.
School board President Mike Walker and Superintendent Ron Wilson commended Lindsay for keeping on repairs rather than waiting for a bond to take care of everything, but advised a bond will be needed this year.
“We almost put you in an impossible position: Fix things without a bond but do the best you can,” Walker said to Lindsay. “Instead of waiting for a bond to pass, we’ve got to keep moving ahead. We’ve got to keep repairing what we can repair, replace what we can replace, but at some point, we can’t do that much longer.
“We’re going to have to do some serious discussion about a bond in the near future.”
Wilson said the public might be getting the mistaken message the district is not taking care of the buildings.
“We’re taking care of our buildings with as many dollars as we have possible to spend. We have a plan and we’re being as aggressive as we possibly can be aggressive,” Wilson said. “There’s a lot of talk at this board table that needs to happen about the future of our schools and what we see going forward, but at the same time we really need to be moving and not just waiting on that golden bond to suddenly come upon us.
“We’re going to spend some money and people may think it’s foolish if you’re going to go in on a bond issue. But we have to do this."