Facilities Committee of school board holds meeting on possible new athletic building

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The facilities committee of the Switzerland County School Board held a meeting on Monday afternoon designed to gather more information on a proposed athletic building that would be constructed near the football field.

At a meeting of the full school board last Monday night, the board heard a presentation by Terry Lancer of Lancer+Beebe Architects in Indianapolis that showed a building that would have two lockerrooms, one larger and one for visiting teams; coaches offices and storage; bathrooms for fans attending games; and a concession area. The estimated cost of the building would fall between $475,000-$575,000, along with architect’s fees of $50,000.

The school board asked its facilities committee, which is made up of board members Nancy Peters and Joe Bennett, to take a closer look at the plans and gather more information that could be presented to the full board at its monthly meeting set for February 23rd.

Also in attendance at Monday’s meeting was Superintendent Mike Jones; School Board President Wayne Daugherty; and corporation treasurer Wilma Swango, along with Terry Lancer.

“We’re here to listen and to go over the specs and see exactly what we think we need to do,” Wayne Daugherty said. “There’s a difference between wanting and needing. I think the board has resigned itself to put up what we need. What we might want is something that probably can’t be had.”

Wayne Daugherty said that Terry Lancer and his staff “have done their homework”, but also stressed that no final decisions have been made.

“This proposed – and I use that word, ‘proposed’ – because there’s been no concrete blocks laid, there’s been no ground leveled, there’s been nothing that we’ve said we’re going to actually do,” Wayne Daugherty said. “That will be based on facts that we need to come up with in the near future.”

Wayne Daugherty also wanted to make sure that everyone knows that some rumors in the community were not accurate.

“We have a three year plan for what we do here,” he said. “For everybody’s information in here, because I know it’s out there: ‘The school corporation is broke’ – well, we’re not broke, and we don’t have to fix it. The corporation is financially fine to do what we’re doing right now – to do more than we’re doing right now. That’s another issue.”

“I’m glad you guys are here,” committee member Joe Bennett said to the crowd in attendance. “I know we’re going to hear some opinions of what we don’t need to do and what we need to do. Personally, I think if we put up a building, we have to include some more things. I’ve talked with some wrestling people over the weekend, and I went to the wrestling meeting, and I think there’s a lot of interest there. From my personal opinion, if we’re going to put up a building, we might want to add some more room to it. I saw a lot of comments over the weekend, and I know that the community wants us to take a hard look at this and make sure that we build the right building.”

“After we do that (build the right building), I think we need to think about what we’re going to do, because this isn’t the only building that we’re going to need,” committee member Nancy Peters continued. “We’re rapidly outgrowing, I think we’ve already out grown, our gym. We need to do something about the gym situation, so this is first, but it can’t be the only thing we’re looking at in the next five years.”

Terry Lancer then went back over the details of the drawings that he presented last Monday night, but he also took time to review where the board has been for the past year.

“We worked on a conceptual design out there that was a much larger building, it had a lot more amenities in it,” Terry Lancer said. “It did have a wrestling room. It did have a fitness room as part of it. It did have larger lockerrooms and more lockerrooms. So at one point we had a conceptual design that we had presented for a building back there that was in excess of a $1 million facility.”

Terry Lancer said that over that last year, the school board felt that due to funds that may be available for the building, it was best to reduce the scope of that building and try to find the funds that would be available either through funds from the school’s Capital Projects portion of the budget; the endowment corporation; or the school’s ‘rainy day’ fund.

He again stressed that the building would first and foremost address safety issues for those attending games at the game field, because fans were walking across the back parking lot through parked cars to buy concessions or use the restroom facilities. A new building near the field would keep people – especially children – from potentially getting hit by a car as they moved through the parking area.

He also noted that the football teams are currently working out of three portable classrooms located on the site that are being used for lockerrooms and storage.

In the course of reducing costs, several things were eliminated, including a wrestling area, additional lockerrooms, and other items.

“In December the board agreed that we would move forward with the design, knowing that it wasn’t the final decision,” Terry Lancer said. “Then we’d be back in January to decide if we were ready to go out for bidding, if funding had come into place; and then, again, when bids were received, to make sure we were within our budget before we moved. So we were at the first of a couple of different thresholds that we were trying to get to, but we were also feeling a bit of a rush to get something in place for the fall sports season.”

He also said that he heard at the January meeting from the board that it wanted to take the deadline of August 1st off of the table so that the date was not hanging over their heads, preferring instead to ‘put the brakes’ on the project and take a longer look at the process.

Even with the reduced scope of the project, Terry Lancer said that he had heard from staff at the school during the past week that they had taken a closer look at the plans, and feel that the visitors lockerroom is about half as small as it needs to be, so that’s something that could be looked at.

“That will cause us to redesign the building, because we’re going to have to grow the ‘foot print’,” Terry Lancer said. “It affects everybody, not just architecture, but civil, structural, mechanical and electrical. When we add square footage, obviously we add costs. If we’re going to step back, maybe we need to step back to programming again of what the program needs are of this building.”

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Wayne Daugherty then turned the meeting towards finances. He asked Wilma Swango to discuss how the building fits into the current budget.

“In capital projects funding, we have earmarked for this particular building $350,000, and that included architect’s fees,” Wilma Swango said. “So at this point in time, we have available, budgeted we have $300,000 remaining for that building. That being said, and realistically considering it, you’ll recall that the bleachers came in about $25,000 over what we had budgeted for that, so my hope would be that somewhere you can pick up that balance, and say that $275,000 is what we have available for this building. If that can’t happen, we’d have to cut it from somewhere else in capital projects, and truthfully, capital projects is a very tight budget this year. In past years it’s not been that way, but currently it is.”

Wayne Daugherty then asked her about what he termed “creative funding”.

“Sometimes we look at just a number, and that represents what you have in your hand that we could be able to come up with if we needed to,” Wayne Daugherty said. “What are the ways that you could foresee coming up with enough funds to do what we needed to do, if we decided to do it?”

“Also, what’s set aside in capital projects in next year’s budget?” Joe Bennett asked.

“2015 is limited to exactly what it is,” Wilma Swango said of the capital projects fund. “2016 and 2017 we’ve kind of thrown things out there. It’s a want list as opposed to a realistic list of what we’ll be able to do.”

“You can’t carry money over from one year to the next, is what you’re saying, right?” High School Principal Gregg Goewert asked.

“You cannot just in capital projects,” Wilma Swango said. “What you can do is call it ‘allocation for future projects’. It’s too late to do that with 2015 money, but if we wanted to do that for 2016, if the board decided it wanted to save let’s say $100,000 for 2017 expenses, that would be an option. That’s kinds of what we did with Switzerland County Elementary. The thing is, it’s not additional money, it’s reducing the current expenses. In order to do that, we’d have to reduce 2015 expenses.”

“We’ve come a long way, we’ve done a lot of things, but we can’t snap things in there that meets everybody’s needs into place in the matter of a year or six months,” Wayne Daugherty said. “You have to be able to go to this thing, it’s like eating a sandwich, you have to eat one bite at a time, and I think that’s pretty much what this school board has done over the past 10 or 15 years.”

In terms of what types of projects that the school corporation – specifically the high school – has in place in its capital projects plan for coming years, Wilma Swango said that in 2016, there are major expenses of HV/AC of $70,000; a weight/fitness/lockerroom addition for $200,000; a middle school/high school breezeway for $605,000.

“As I say that, I’d have to say that the capital projects fund that was approved in 2015, was $2,021,272; but including the things that I told you for next year, our budget estimate right now is $3,124,799 – there’s no way we’re going to get that much, but we did put everything out there that we could possibly consider, and things come up as the principals have things, so those change,” Wilma Swango said. “For 2017 right now, we do have written in a wrestling room at $150,000.”

“When that plan was created, if we’re going to get to the real conversation here,” Gregg Goewert said. “We have wrestling folks here and we have the football coach. That $150,000, Terry Lancer, is not going to build a wrestling room that is going to be the size of what we want. We want a permanent home. The question here, is, next year: weights and wrestling? And where is the location going to be? When Terry proposed the $1.7 million building out back, we didn’t want to have the weight room out there. Why? The same reason that we don’t want kids going back and forth across the parking lot. We sat down in two public board meetings – not one, I presented twice – and we didn’t make any concrete decisions, but we identified that liability, safety, and those types of things were really important. And we came to a smaller building because every year we have $2.1 million to spend in capital projects, and out of that comes lots of different things: copier costs, technology, staff members for Mr. Sieglitz, all kinds of things that are broken down.

“The plan that Wilma just read is not my plan, as the building principal,” Gregg Goewert continued. “I’ve said all along to my wrestling coaches, ‘yes, next year is still the plan’. We have a home right now, and that home accommodates what we do because Rick (wrestling coach Rick Wallace) practices later than the middle school kids, and the Lynx kids come in still later. The dream situation is to have a high school-sized mat and a middle school-sized mat, and have it be either right there with that weight room/auxiliary gym concept or between the middle school and the high school.”

Wilma Swango said that she sees five basic ways to have the funds that will be needed. She said that some were not as feasible as others, but she was simply presenting all options.

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There were members of the community in attendance at the meeting to hear more about the plans and share their opinions on what should and shouldn’t be done.

High School wrestling coach Rick Wallace told the board that he was a driving force in getting both wrestling and football into the school system, so he felt comfortable speaking about both.

“I don’t disagree with what was said today. We do need lockerrooms and we do need better facilities for the football team,” Rick Wallace said. “But I have to bring up the case for the wrestling team. It’s not that we want better or we’d like to have better. We have serious hygiene issues and safety issues in how we are handling the wrestling practice as of today. We just went to Sectionals. I have four high school wrestlers and one small wrestler who have skin diseases from the way we are handling the mat room. You can’t walk to the bathrooms and down the hallways and walk on a wrestling mat and have a young man wrestle with a full sweat and his pores open and get those germs into his body, and expect it to not have consequences.”

Currently the wrestling room in the high school is the former home economics room in the high school.

“Mr. Wallace, do you see wrestling in this proposed building, if it is enlarged?” Nancy Peters said.

“Mrs. Peters, I’m not really particular of what building we practice in, as long as we have a good, safe, sanitary area,” Rick Wallace said. “We don’t have lockers for the wrestling team. We’re using cabinets. As a wrestling coach, I have to support my boys – they’re sick. I had boys who couldn’t go to Sectional because of skin diseases.”

“We have a lot of the same issues from our perspective with kids getting sick because of the sanitation in the lockerrooms,” Football Coach Ryan Jesop said. “They pick their shoulder pads and take off running, but there would be droppings across their jerseys and things, and they’d get sick. One game we came in against Bracken County at the beginning of the year, and there was mold and mildew growing. The heating and air conditioning units don’t work all the time. I’m right with him with the sanitation thing.”

“I sympathize with everything that you’re all saying,” Wayne Daugherty said. “It’s just that we can’t financially write that check for everything everybody wants right now, today. Now in one year, two years, I don’t know.”

“We want to make sure that whatever we do, it’s what’s good for the kids,” Joe Bennett said. “We’ve approved the bleachers. I think with this we just need to step back, and if it takes a little while, let’s build a building that’s going to make sense. I feel pressure that we have to have this done by August 1st, and I don’t think we need to have that pressure. I say we take our time and do this right.”

“We can only do so much, one thing at a time,” Nancy Peters said. “We need this room. We need wrestling facilities. We can’t do them both now unless we put out the big $1 million project, so that’s something the board is going to have to decide if they want to do. If the board decides we can afford this, with enlarging the building, then we’re going to have to figure out how we can fix things and its better until we can get a wrestling facility.”

“We need a room that is just our room,” parent Shona Thomas said. “Our wrestlers need a room. We’ve been here for four years. Our wrestlers need a place to call their own, with no dancers, with no tech training, no anything. It has to be our room. Our boys are getting sick.”

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After more discussion, Nancy Peters thanked everyone for attending and providing input and information. She said that she will ask for the committee to meet again with the public invited at some point after the next full board meeting and before any decision is made.

“I understand everybody’s issue,” she said. “But that’s not fixing anything. We need to figure out what we’re going to do first. I think we hear loudly and clearly, that we need to regroup.”