Dozens of school repair, upgrade projects in progress
It’s easy to see the complete remodel and expansion of the 50-year-old Carson Middle School. The grounds have been turned into a construction zone for the $12 million project.
But school officials concede that taxpayers probably have some difficulty seeing what else they’re getting for the $25 million bond they approved two years ago.
Some taxpayers have questioned the need, especially when no new schools are on the list since Carson’s student population is declining, not growing.
Mike Mitchell, director of operations for the district, said taxpayers are getting “a lot” for their money.
“It’s multiple projects spread out over two years that are interconnected to each other,” he said.
The work ranges from roof repairs to complete heating and ventilation replacement projects and involves all 12 of the district’s schools. Mitchell said the need is critical because Carson has to take care of the buildings and properties it has, so building new schools won’t be the only answer.
Because of the need to coordinate all that work and the challenges of getting the projects on the list done despite double-digit inflation in construction material costs, Mitchell said the district hired a project manager.
That contract cost the district $950,000, but Mitchell said project manager Stacy Reid of Miles Construction has already saved the district more than that. As an example, he said Reid urged the district to buy the new skylight that covers the hallway at Eagle Valley Middle School.
“He knew because of the push for greener buildings and energy efficiency as well as the rising prices of fiberglass and metals driving up skylight costs, it would be much more expensive if we waited to buy until we were ready to install next summer.”
He said the $124,000, 200-foot-long structure will be stored until workers are ready to install it, replacing the leaking skylight that now covers the main hall at Eagle Valley.
Reid said the old skylight had to go, not only because of deterioration from its age but because it wasn’t installed far enough above the roof line to prevent leaks.
Reid said his challenge is finding breaks so the district gets everything promised done within budget despite the huge inflation in construction costs over the past two years.
That and coordinating dozens of different projects all happening at the same time – including roofing work at every school in Carson.
The biggest single project is the reconstruction and expansion of Carson Middle School, eliminating the old portable classroom units, remodeling the entire school and creating an enclosed central courtyard similar to that at Carson High. The total cost of that work is nearly $12 million and includes new heating, ventilation and air conditioning units and a roof.
After that, the most expensive projects are putting new HVAC units in Carson High School, Eagle Valley Middle School, Empire and Seeliger elementary schools. Every other school in the district got some HVAC upgrades and repairs. The total cost? More than $5.4 million.
But Mitchell said CHS is a good example of why they’re doing it. They’re replacing the 1971 boilers, which were probably less than 60 percent efficient when new, with modern boilers that are 95 percent efficient. He said the work will pay for itself in five to seven years.
“After that, it’s all savings,” he said. “It’s awesome.”
Carson High alums will be glad to hear the high school’s football field and bleachers will finally be fixed. The field has long had drainage problems, turning into a bog any time the capital city gets more than a drizzle of rain. The work includes a new track, replacing the old surface which, Mitchell said, they haven’t been able to use for competition for three years.
The bleachers, he said, are a nightmare with no access for the disabled and safety issues that would scare an inspector.
“A wheelchair ramp that meets code would have to be 100 feet long to get up to the bleachers,” he said.
Reid said the most expensive part of the field project is the drainage and football field work, which come to a bit more than $1 million. He said one idea is to install a drain all the way around the field and run it out to the detention basin built to collect water from the new freeway right-of-way.
“We’re hoping for some joint effort on how to resolve this with both the city and the state,” said Mitchell, pointing out that the city’s runoff ditch runs through the north end of the school property and drains “at least 10 percent of the west side.”
During a storm, he said so much water flows through the ditch it backs up onto the football field.
Mitchell said Reid also saved the district $787,000 on the roofing job at Carson High.
Roofs and soffits, the structures underneath where the roofs overhang the edges of the school buildings, account for just under $4 million of the total cost.
Soffits, Mitchell admitted, aren’t sexy. But two linear miles of soffit needed replacing district-wide.
CHS alone got 250,000 square-feet of new roof laid over six to 10 inches of insulation. That too, Mitchell said, will pay for itself over time.
“And we’ve already seen a difference in just a couple of rainstorms,” he said pointing out that after storms in the past, numerous small leaks would stain ceiling tiles at the school. The leaks are no more.
With Reid’s expertise, Mitchell said, the district should be able to do everything on its list of projects despite inflation.
And he said they are on schedule to complete everything by August.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.
Carson Middle School
Demolition, grading and site work: $2.3 million
Shell construction, plumbing and finish work: $8 million
Total: $11.7 million
HVAC replacement at Carson High, Eagle Valley Middle, Empire and Seeliger elementary schools. HVAC repairs and upgrades plus other mechanical work at other Carson schools: $5.46 million
Roof and soffit replacements at Carson High, Empire and Seeliger schools, roof repairs and soffit work at other schools: $2.08 million
Carson High field work
Bleacher replacement: $300,000
New track surface at Carson High: $250,000
Drainage work and raising the level of the football: $1.15 million
Total: $1.7 million
Architecture, engineering and consulting fees: $2.3 million
Total: $23.24 million