2017-01-10 / Local

$783K in upgrades considered for Towanda SD's physical plant

BY JAMES LOEWENSTEIN

Staff Writer

TOWANDA — The Towanda Area School Board will be voting next week on whether to approve $783,020 worth of projects to improve the Towanda School District’s physical plant, which would be done during the 2017-18 fiscal year.

At the board’s meeting on Monday, Darin Rathbun, an engineer with Hunt Engineers, and Towanda School District Business Manager Doreen Secor gave a presentation on the proposed projects.

The projects were recommended by a long-term plan for improving the school district’s buildings and grounds, which Hunt Engineers helped the school district put together, Secor said.

Each year, the school district undertakes some of the projects that were recommended by the plan, she said.

Several of the projects planned for the 2017-18 fiscal year were originally approved by the board for the 2015-16 fiscal year, but were not done at the time.

For example, the district’s administration is proposing to go forward with a $125,000 stream stabilization project that would address erosion that a stream is causing behind the handicapped access parking lot near the Endless Mountains Athletics Complex, Secor said.

The district had postponed the stream stabilization work because it was hoping to secure outside funding for the project, which did not materialize, Secor said. Secor noted that Hunt Engineers is expecting the bids for the stream stabilization work to come it at $60,000 or less, far below what the project was originally estimated to cost.

The proposed projects for 2017-18 fiscal year also include a $52,000 upgrade to the chimney at the Towanda Area Elementary School, which lacks a required stainless steel liner, Rathbun said.

After a boiler was replaced at the school, its exhaust was vented into the chimney, and the corrosive gases that now travel through the chimney have caused an acidic condensation near the top of the structure, which is “slowly eating at the brick and mortar,” Rathbun said.

However, the masonry in the chimney has not deteriorated to the point where it needs to be replaced, he said. The liner is intended to protect the masonry from further deterioration.

The chimney project, which was also originally approved for the 2015-16 school year, also involves replacing the chimney’s hatch door, since rain and snow now collects at the bottom of the chimney, Rathbun said.

“I think that in rain events, it floods” at the base of the chimney, he said.

Still another project that is being carried over from the 2015-16 fiscal year is a $10,000 project to tie in drop ceilings on the first and second floors of the Towanda Area Elementary School.

The drop ceilings are “anchored to the plaster, and not the structure. Everything looks to be in good shape, but if the plaster comes loose, the ceiling would come with it,” he said.

Another proposed project, estimated to cost $105,000, would replace the pool filter at the high school’s natatorium, which is nearly 50 years old, and include other work in the area of the pool.

Other proposed projects include repairing and replacing concrete work, including steps leading to the high school, and replacing pavement in a parking lot on the school campus.

The $783,020-estimated cost of the projects also includes a $94,320 contingency fund.

At next Monday’s school board meeting, the board will be asked to authorize the removal of funds from the school district’s Capital Reserve Fund to pay for the projects. The board will also be voting on whether to authorize Hunt Engineers to move forward with additional work on the proposed projects.

Eventually, the school board will vote on whether to put each project out to bid, and would award bids for each project, Secor said.

At next Monday’s school board meeting, the board will also be voting on a resolution that would limit any increase in the school property tax for the 2017-18 fiscal year to 3.4 percent, which is the state index for the school district for the coming year.

If the school board passes the resolution, the school district could increase the school property tax by no more than 1.5 mills for the 2017-18 fiscal year, Secor said.

James Loewenstein can be contacted at (570) 265-2151 ext. 1633; or email: jloewenstein@thedailyreview.com.

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