The Altoona Area school board on Monday awarded contracts totaling $1.5 million for improvements to the high school.
It's the start of $6 million worth of work over the next year - what's left of a $55 million renovation project the district shrunk recently because of funding concerns.
District officials compiled the short list a few months ago of "the most important things" on the original list after realizing they couldn't afford to borrow the money for the big project, board member Dick Lockard said.
They transferred the money to cover the costs of the small project from the general fund to a capital reserve account, he said.
As originally envisioned, the work was going to focus on replacing and updating "systems" - HVAC, electrical distribution, lighting, plumbing fixtures and accessible piping, exterior doors, windows and roofs - plus correction of code and accessibility deficiencies, according to an email in May 2010 from project manager Rick Witt of L.R. Kimball.
The list of projects ran in small type for most of three pages, with construction to occur through the 2015-2016 school year.
The Altoona Area school board approved the following work:
- $757,000 to Eber HVAC Inc., one of six bidders, for replacement of classroom ventilators in the B Building
- $376,900 to Darr Construction Inc., one of five bidders, to replace the air handler in the gym
- $224,400 to Penn Installations Inc., one of three bidders, to replace locker and restroom stall equipment in the gym and pool locker rooms
- $95,000 to TRS Roofing, one of five bidders, to replace the natatorium roof
- $83,200 to Eastern Elevator Service & Sales Co., one of two bidders, to retrofit the elevator
The board also approved a contract with Krena Leberfinger Commercial Builder, one of two bidders, for painting at $25 per hour.
It also approved a contract with Lawruk Builders Inc., one of eight bidders, to construct a new storage building next to the junior high school intramural field, near a storage building that's there already.
The cost could have gone as high as $70 million, district spokesman Tom Bradley said.
That would have created a debt service problem, given the debt service running to 2025 the district incurred recently with its construction of the new junior high school, Lockard said.
The vastly reduced job list - which fits on a single page, even with larger type - doesn't require the district to borrow.
It includes replacement or repair of ventilators, air handlers, energy management panels, electrical equipment, chillers, piping, boiler controls, plumbing, lockers, elevators, doors, ceiling tile, stage lighting, roofs, an emergency generator, a parking lot, a parapet wall, sidewalks and carpet.
The projects encountered resistance from some board members, despite being part of a vastly reduced list.
A power outage in December "played havoc" with the heating system, helping contribute to the need for the classroom ventilation replacement, a staffer said in answer to one challenge.
And the air handlers in the gym are "falling apart," said Kathy Hazenstab of the business office, in answer to another.
The elevator broke down four times last year and twice this year, which strands disabled students in the building, except for one employee who can operate a special lift, creating "a huge liability," a staffer said to a challenge from board member Ryan Beers.
The lockers are rusty, some are broken and there are sharp edges that can cause cuts, said member Skip Dry to another challenge from Beers.
And the district needs the storage facility for items previously stored at Keith Junior High School and soccer equipment, said Superintendent Dennis Murray, to yet another challenge from Beers.
Unlike the other answers, that didn't appease him.
"It seems crazy for a storage facility to pay a quarter-million dollars," Beers said.
Mirror Staff Writer William Kibler is at 949-7038.