District will seek bids for Oakville Middle School air conditioning

By Alyson E. Raletz

The Mehlville School District will seek bids for the installation of air conditioning at Oakville Middle School though the work may place improvements at the school $172,185 over budget.

The work will be performed as part of the school district’s Proposition P districtwide building improvement program and the Board of Education voted unanimously last week to seek bids for the air conditioning, which is projected to cost $1,069,399.

Proposition P Oversight Committee Chairman Chuck Van Gronigen told board members Oct. 27 that after discussing the issue during two committee meetings, nine members recommended providing air conditioning at Oakville Middle School without reservations, while two members supported the recommendation, but expressed reservations about the project going over budget. He explained that 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 a building addition were completed this summer, the air conditioning work and the installation of new energy-efficient windows were delayed until next summer.

Instead of reconnecting the outdated system, Dwight Dickinson of Dickinson Hussman Architects told board members Oct. 27 that it was more prudent for the district to purchase a new $99,154 fire-alarm network — the primary reason Oakville Middle’s project is over budget.

“The committee discussed several issues in their deliberations, one is that Prop P and the spirit of which was to provide HVAC in that building — obligated to do that to provide equity in the district …,” Van Gronigen said.

Once the project undergoes the competitive bidding process and board members are faced with actual numbers, they have the option of considering the second phase of the Oakville Middle project again or they can ask Oversight Committee members to revisit the proposal and offer some type of recommendation to the board before it makes its final decision.

“What we have to remember is when we’re asking for approval from the board tonight to go out for bid, that’s exactly what we’re doing,” Dickinson said. “We’re not asking the board for approval to bid the project on whatever the numbers that come in as a bid project. What we’re saying to the board tonight is we believe that we have about a $142,000 budget problem, but it could be less. On the other hand, there’s always that possibility it could be more.”

About $30,000 of the budget overage could be relieved if the district is awarded a Department of Natural Resources loan that would pay for energy efficient boilers at Oakville Middle. The boilers would eliminate the need for a heat exchanger that currently is used.

Board members also unanimously authorized Randy Charles, assistant superintendent of finance and chief financial officer, to borrow $500,000 in tax anticipation notes from Midwest BankCentre to fund October and November payroll and operating costs. The district has been experiencing cash-flow problems since it has not yet received property tax payments, which comprise 80 percent of its overall budget.

In fact, if the district does not receive local revenues soon, Charles said it is likely the district will have to borrow $2.25 million on Nov. 20 for similar reasons.

Board members unanimously gave permission to take such action, if needed.

“When we authored this last week, there was a possibility — we felt there was a possibility that the revenue would come in on time, that we would not need to issue that second note. Right now we’re a little less optimistic having heard that the county is issuing the tax bills about two weeks later. So, it’s a strong possibility. We will need to issue that second note,” Charles said.

If the district borrows the $2.25 million in anticipation notes, it will have been the third time this year the district has borrowed money for cash-flow purposes.

In September, the district borrowed $3 million from Midwest BankCentre to cover payroll until it received a $7.5 million loan from an advanced funding program in early October. It is normal for the district to take advantage of the Missouri Health and Educational Facilities Authority program, but that money typically is available earlier in the year — preventing the district from having to apply for tax anticipation notes to make ends meet while it waits for the program money.