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Helmut Schmidt, Published December 10 2013

Fargo School Board OKs adding air conditioning at six Fargo elementary schools

FARGO – Heat waves should be a lot more bearable in the future at six Fargo elementary schools. And heating bills should be lower, too.

The School Board voted 7-1 on Tuesday to approve going ahead with designing and bidding the addition of air conditioning and new high-efficiency boilers to the schools. Estimates for the six projects add up to more than $12 million.

The board also voted 8-0 to approve issuing up to $27.7 million in bonds to pay for a new elementary school in Ed Clapp Park and the six heating, ventilation and air conditioning retrofitting projects.

Without the costs of design, the HVAC work at Madison, McKinley, Lewis and Clark, Roosevelt, Horace Mann and Clara Barton schools is estimated at $11,258,980.

As part of the resolution to move ahead with the projects, the board set design and construction administration fees at 9.25 percent for Obermiller, Nelson Engineering of Fargo. Given the estimated cost of the six projects, that would net the company about $1,041,455.

That brings the total estimated cost of the projects to $12,300,435.

Obermiller, Nelson Engineering and district administrators originally settled on design and construction administration fees of about 10 percent, or $1,125,895, documents show.

The total cost of the projects and the fees will depend on construction bids in the spring.

Business Manager Broc Lietz said he must meet with officials from ONE, which has been doing design work on the projects, to see if they will accept the lower fees.

Board member Paul Meyers voted against the resolution, saying the fees are still too high.

ONE said the projects can be finished by fall 2014 and won’t disrupt classroom work, administrators said.

The six schools were closed for several days early this school year due to a heat wave that kept classroom temperatures too high for learning, district officials said.

Not all of the $27.7 million in bonding authority may be used, depending on whether the district can get a state school construction loan, or if cash from the building or general funds is used, President Dinah Goldenberg said.

Board member Jim Johnson estimated with a state loan and tapping cash reserves, the district may be able to trim the eventual bond issue to $16.5 million.

District officials have said they’d like to start building a school in Ed Clapp Park in spring 2014, and open it in fall 2015.

“I think we’re all investing in a vision,” board member John Strand said. “I’m really hanging my hat on community support” for the projects.

In other business, the board accepted and filed the formative evaluation of Superintendent Jeff Schatz. All nine board members rated Schatz’s work as satisfactory.

Board member Linda Boyd was not present at Tuesday’s meeting.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583