01/19/11 — Commissioners visit Norwayne and EWMS

View Archive

Commissioners visit Norwayne and EWMS

By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 19, 2011 1:58 PM

Full Size


County Commissioner Steve Keen looks over architectural renderings with Diane Watts, assistant principal at Norwayne Middle School, during the county commissioners' visit Tuesday to tour the school and discuss proposed renovations and additions.

Major renovation and construction projects at Norwayne and Eastern Wayne middle schools could be ready to bid by May -- and the county could by September be selling the $15 million in federal bonds that will finance the work.

Architects for the county schools said the projects could be bid together or separately depending on where the most competitive bids could be obtained.

The most recent estimate for the Eastern Wayne project two years ago was $6.2 million. The 2008 estimate for Norwayne was $6.7 million.

County commissioners and school board members Tuesday afternoon visited the two campuses to review the plans. For the most part, questions centered on the schools' student capacity, how water runoff would be addressed and problems caused by morning and afternoon traffic stacking that backs out onto the road.

"I am just pleased we were able to come back," Superintendent Dr. Steve Taylor said after the tours. "This is the second time that we have visited. I was pleased that the commissioners could see the design plan and what we are going to put in place.

"Certainly the renovations are something that have been needed for some time. We would love to have brand new schools, but we know the resources just aren't there to do that right now, so we have to go with the renovations."

It is expected to take 14 to 15 months to get renovations done at both schools, Taylor said.

"We hope we can move as quickly as we can, maybe faster than that." he said.

The application process is under way for the federal Qualified School Construction Bonds that will finance the projects.

"You would bid in May because you have to have bids in hand when you go with the application," County Manager Lee Smith said. "You have to make sure that the bids are good for 60 to 90 days and then go to the June or July Local Government Commission meeting for approval.

"Within 45 days of that, you go on the bond market and are selling bonds. You could be out by September selling the bonds and we have until Dec. 31 (to sell them). We have to get the designs finished, the alternative (bid proposals). We have to get the permits. There is a lot to be done. The next five months are going to be busy."

Lottery proceeds would be utilized to pay the principal, and local funds the interest. The federal government would reimburse the county at the end of each year, making the bonds interest-free -- saving the county more than $750,000 in interest over 17 years or a total of more than $12,750,000."

The $750,000 in annual interest translates to about 1.55 cents on the county's property tax rate.

The bonds have to be sold before December of 2011 or be forfeited. The county then has a three-year period to spend and complete the project.

"Our purpose today is to review the plans here (at Norwayne) and at Eastern Wayne," Taylor told the two boards during the first stop at Norwayne. "I certainly speak for the board when I say to the county commissioners we appreciate your work with us to get this done. I think it is something that we all want to see happen."

Taylor said that it had not been anticipated the county would be able to get such a large amount at one time.

"So in this economy we appreciate that we can move on with this," he said.

Most of the commissioners' comments centered around drainage issues at the campus that sits in the bottom of a bowl-shaped area and has a chronic drainage problem. The basic concept is an underground system to carry the water under the campus and away from it, said Katherine Peele with LS3P, the architectural firm designing the projects

Commissioner Andy Anderson asked if efforts would be made to divert the water before it reached the campus. He was assured that it would.

"The main part of this project is to demolish two of the old classroom buildings that currently house two of the grades and coming back with a new two-story building immediately adjacent to the media center," Ms. Peele said. "It would accommodate two grade levels and would include 10 classrooms and two science rooms per floor per grade level."

The project would be done in phases over a year to 18 months requiring that children be moved in and then out of temporary mobile units, she said.

The two-story building would be the first to be constructed.

Commission Chairman J.D. Evans asked if the mobile units would be leased or purchased. Taylor said it could be done either way, depending on cost.

An alternate plan includes demolition of a second building and construction of a second new one.

"The original plan a couple of years ago was to simply do some renovations at that building to put in new flooring and lighting and to fix it up," Ms. Peele said. "But we understand there is an interest in possibly replacing that building. One of the things we have talked to Dr. Taylor and his staff is where that building could possibly be located.

"We are looking at doing an alternate bid for another grade level building that would tie into the newest building upfront. That would allow you to pretty much have all of your classrooms under one building without students having to go outside and change classes. We would bid that as a separate alternative just to make sure we are within the bond amounts you are going to be getting for this project."

The 2008 estimate was $6.7 million for the original project not including the second new building, she said. That addition would cost another $2.4 million.

"We continue to see very favorable bid prices, so we believe we will get good bids in this bid environment," Ms. Peele said.

Another issue is the morning and afternoon traffic stacking that backs out onto the road as parents drop off or pick up their children.

"What we are proposing to do is reverse how traffic works on this site," Ms. Peele said. "Currently parents come in up front and there is only a short drive up there."

The plan would move the buses up front and the drop-off near the new building.

Minor renovations at the cafeteria with new flooring and lighting are included as well, she said.

In response to questioning, Ms. Peele said the project was not increasing the capacity of the school that was already large for a middle school.

Taylor reminded commissioners that a new middle school is planned in the northern part of the county that should take some of the stress off Norwayne.

During the stop at Eastern Wayne Middle School, Ms. Peele said that an underground system also would be used to control storm water runoff there as well.

That concept was decided on because the site is flat with little nearby drainage ditches and as such there is nowhere to take the storm water, she said.

The infiltration system would be built under the parking lot. The water would go into that system and infiltrate down into the ground, she said.

Commissioner Jack Best asked how much water the underground drainage could handle.

"Will it take 10 inches in 24 hours?" he said.

He asked Ms. Peele to further explain the plan and where the water would go.

It is "sort of a holding tank" and the water simply infiltrates into the ground, she said. Ms. Peele said that engineers had to plan for the state's 100-year flood. However, she said she would find out the capacity and report back to commissioners.

"Check on the 500 (year flood), too," Best said. "I am telling you in the last 10 years we have had 500-year floods."

Ms. Peele said the state Department of Transportation had been contacted about adding turn lanes off Central Heights Road in front of the school. However, there is not sufficient right of way to do so, she said.

"They suggested that instead we try to come on site with the stacking lanes," she said.

Commissioner Steve Keen wanted to know if the DOT would share in the expense of the road and drainage. Taylor responded that the city had received a grant to help with the lane improvements as well as for some sidewalks.

"The big picture is that we are going to be building a new two-story classroom building that will run parallel to Central Heights Road," Ms. Peele said. "We will be tearing down that oldest building and connecting this (new) building with what is (now) the administration building. We are building 32,000 square feet of classroom building that will have a grade level on each floor and that is comprised of eight regular classrooms.

"We will move administration into that building. Then we will come back and renovate that building for computer labs and Spanish classroom and exceptional children's classroom as well. Also in the new building we have a new art classroom. We have two exceptional children's classrooms that are self-contained and have exceptional children's resource room in that building as well."

A building adjacent to the existing parking lot will be demolished as well. That will allow parking to be expanded and an additional lane running parallel to Central Heights Road in front of the new building, she said.

The additional lane is expected to hold about three times the current number of vehicles that can pull in front of the school, she said.

"We are trying to consolidate where students get in and out of cars instead of having them doing so in multiple locations," Ms. Peele said.

The new building will include a new entrance and the office will allow staff to view traffic coming in and out of the school. The administrative portion of the project will be one story.

A grassy area between the entrance and the media center will provide for additional parking.

Keen asked if there would be any mobile units on the campus. There will be some needed during construction, but none should be on site once it is completed, she said.

At Best's request the group toured three older buildings, including the gym that are not part of the renovation.