CUBA CITY—A facilities study is the first step toward analyzing the Cuba City School District’s building and space needs. It will focus on energy efficiency needs, which could help with cost-savings for larger projects the school could choose to proceed with in the future, with the assistance of funds available through Act 32.
During the last couple of months, the building and grounds committee began looking at a review of the district’s facilities, which included discussions with the Platteville School Board, a group that has recently gone through a similar process. During those meetings, several members of the Platteville School Board talked about how they approached the process of reviewing their district facilities, how they planned for changes and eventually went to referendum.
“I think Platteville was a big help in giving us a place to start,” building and grounds committee chairman Terry Terpstra said.
District administrator Roger Kordus has talked with several vendors to get a feasibility study completed. The study would focus on the buildings’ energy efficient needs. One of three companies has already met with the building and grounds committee to go over the process. The other two companies were scheduled to meet with the committee on Wednesday, Feb. 24.
“What’s neat about what they do, they not only come in and analyze our needs and what we may need to do with our facilities, but they walk you through the entire process,” board member Kendal Bruner said. “They get involved in the financing part of it, how you can finance these improvements or updates or additions, or whatever they come up with. They even walk you through the referendum part. It’s from start to finish, not just telling you what you need and telling you to go out and fund it. They take it to the public to give them first-hand knowledge of what we are doing and why we’re doing it.”
The vendors are discussing the Act 32 revenue limit exemption and services they can offer to address the district and facility needs.
Kordus said Act 32 allows a school district to exceed the revenue limit cap as long as the project focuses on energy conservation and the district works with a performance contractor. The performance contractor is needed to verify the cost savings for energy efficiencies. He said pursuing a revenue limit increase for an energy efficient project under Act 32 wouldn’t require public input, but he thought the school board would prefer to have the citizens vote on anything associated with exceeding the revenue limit.
“The one thing they tell you the most is the problem with schools these days is they’re all either brand new or they’re all out of date and falling apart,” Terpstra said. “There hasn’t been a way to fill that gap and bring them all up to date until this Act 32, which lets you use this money that you would save on energy efficient [projects] and put it toward the referendum to buy the referendum down, saving you money in the long run.”
The initial facilities study is free for the district. It highlights the district’s energy deficiencies.
“That’s how you fund these additional items, by the efficiencies that they are going to bring to the school. If they can save us $75,000 in electric bills and heating bills, that money can then be used toward that debt,” Bruner said.
The initial step is to assess the energy and utility use as well as getting to know the district. The committee will review the three companies' proposals and select which one to work with, recommending it to the school board for approval. The chosen company will then complete a more thorough assessment of the district, taking into consideration the comments from school staff, administration and the school board. This is when the districts space needs would be factored into a plan.
“We realize that the round school [Cuba City Elementary/Middle School] is packed to capacity,” Bruner said. “We also have an issue with gymnasium space for not only athletic practices, but for all daily uses. We’re short on gym space.”
Kordus said the elementary/middle school is almost at capacity with every free space being used for instruction.
“We need to take care of the learning environment for our kids,” Kordus said. “We want to be proactive with the needs of our buildings.”
Kordus said the gym space at both the elementary and high school buildings is used from 6 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. almost every day.
“It’s at capacity and we need to address it,” Kordus said. “We are still looking at ideas. That is why we want to hire a third party expert in their field to look at it for us.”
Kordus said that the elementary/middle school currently has issues with heating, ventilation and air conditioning efficiencies because it is a round school built in the 1960s. He said there have been some improvements made over the years, but he knows there is more that can be done.
“No money will be spent for efficiency improvements until we figure out what other infrastructure improvements or building needs there are,” board member Terry Loeffelholz said.
The timeline includes meeting the three vendors in February, allowing them to complete their initial assessments in March and reporting to the building and grounds committee in April. In May, the committee will make a recommendation to the board and begin to move forward with one company. Terpstra said it will likely be a short timeframe to completion of the assessment, planning and financial outlook portions of the project, possibly as long as 18 months.
“I look at the first phase that they’re doing as the vendor getting to know the district and collecting data,” Kordus said. “Once we get the first phase done, then we engage the community and staff on what we want to do, whether we want to put on some additions or add a gym, and that would be the second phase. Those two phases would be brought together to bring to the public.”