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‘Real basic things’ on Alpena schools bond list

ALPENA — Roofs and boilers could be replaced and new heating and ventilation systems installed at Alpena County schools if the school board asks voters to approve a bond proposal.

Alpena Public Schools Superintendent John VanWagoner on Monday shared a list of potential projects with the school board’s Property Committee. The list was put together after Dave Moore, educational/facilities consultant with Integrated Designs Inc., met with community members in October to talk about the district’s failed bond proposal back in May, the district’s biggest needs, and other items.

The board has not yet decided to seek another bond, but is exploring its options.

In addition to mechanical work, potential projects include security cameras and secure entries to the schools and energy-efficient lighting (which could qualify for a rebate, VanWagoner said).

Cost estimates still are being gathered for the items.

“I don’t think it will be hard to put numbers together,” VanWagoner said. “I think these are real basic things.”

Voters soundly rejected a $63 million bond proposal in May that would have been used to build a new Ella White Elementary School and make significant remodels and safety improvements to Alpena High School and other renovations at all APS school buildings.

Property owners in the district would have repaid the bonds over 25 years through higher tax rates.

Though that bond money never came, the facilities needs never went away, school leaders said, with VanWagoner recently calling roof and boiler issues at multiple schools a near-emergency situation.

If the district puts another proposal on the ballot, it is likely to be slimmer than the May proposal.

The district heard loud and clear, VanWagoner said, that voters do not want a new Ella White, so the district will instead fix the school the best it can.

A parking lot would be installed where the current playground is, and the playground moved to where the ball field is. There is no parking lot at the school, so staff park across the street at Free Methodist Church at the corner of 3rd Avenue and Ripley Boulevard. School visitors park in streets by the school.

“The reality is we don’t get money from the state specifically for maintenance of buildings,” VanWagoner said. “We don’t have a sinking fund, like some of the smaller districts around us do. We’re larger, we have 10 buildings across our district, and the communities have valued these elementary schools in their little communities, and so, when you do that, the reality is is that it’s a much larger element.”

VanWagoner said that this year and maybe next year, the district could be forced to close a building for a long period of time because of boilers not turning on and roofs leaking.

“I was at Ella White the other day and kids are wearing jackets, because it’s that cold,” VanWagoner said. “I have an obligation to try and bring this to the board before an emergency situation happens.”

Alpena Public Schools by Julie Goldberg on Scribd

Julie Goldberg can be reached at 989-358-5688 or jgoldberg@thealpenanews.com. Follow her on Twitter @jkgoldberg12.