Decatur Independent School District’s oldest building will become its new administration building.
On a 3-2 vote, a short-handed school board Monday approved a $2.3 million contract with Mart Inc. of Irving to renovate the built in 1939 – most recently the temporary home of Weatherford College Wise County. The total budgeted cost of the project is $2.6 million.
The board considered the project at its last meeting on Feb. 21 but decided to postpone a vote until more information could be reviewed.
Deputy Superintendent Gary Micinski gave a detailed report on the project, including why he recommended moving forward. He pointed out that the building represents the district’s history and is a “source of pride” for the district and community. The structure itself is more solid than any other facility in the district except for perhaps the newest building, Young Elementary.
“The structure is in very good condition on the outside, and it could be a good structure for the future,” Micinski said, pointing out that the walls and timber frame appear to be in excellent condition.
In addition to preserving history, Micinski also offered the following reasons for renovating the building for use as an administration building:
- If the facility was to be used for a school building, it would present traffic congestion problems just like those experienced when it was previously used as a school building.
- Construction prices have apparently bottomed out and are on the way up, meaning any delay in renovation or building will end up costing more in the future.
- The gymnasium building allows for future office space.
- The district is outgrowing the current administration building.
- The renovated building will allow the consolidation of departments that are now spread out at different facilities.
- The addition of high-efficiency doorways and a new HVAC system should make the facility more energy efficient.
- It would save the district from having to purchase land to build a new administration building.
- Moving administration into the 1939 building would allow the current administration building to house the technology department, which has long outgrown its space in a nearby building.
- Renovation of the auditorium would allow the facility to be used by the entire community.
- The building would allow for more than 50 years of current and future administration growth, and the renovated auditorium-turned-boardroom would be big enough to handle “any very large school district,” Micinski said.
- If the building is “mothballed” and minimum renovations are made, future costs will likely be greater with funds potentially wasted on temporary quarters for either technology or the administration.
- The building could be built without a bond issue.
- Buildings used just for storage may be taken over by others, based on at least one proposal under consideration by the current legislature.
The biggest costs in the project would include $571,000 for a new HVAC unit with a new chilling unit; $196,743 for electrical work; $164,838 for total replacement of the roof and $157,000 for remodeling of the auditorium into a boardroom.
MORE TECH SPACE
Technology Director Troy Bagwell also discussed the need for a larger facility. Among the issues with the current technology department building is lack of adequate parking or restroom facilities for training sessions, limited shop space, a building that has flooded during heavy rains, less-than-ideal storage conditions and security concerns. The move would also allow all of the core network services to be housed under one roof.
The cost of moving the technology department into the current administration building, $105,000, was also factored into the total cost of the project.
Board member Marsha Hafer asked a question, echoing the concerns of fellow board member Alan White at the Feb. 21 meeting, regarding what funding cuts public schools could expect to see coming out of the current legislative session. Superintendent Rod Townsend said the latest projections show a slight increase in funding for public schools.
Former longtime Decatur ISD educator and principal J.E. Carson attended the meeting and encouraged the school board to approve the renovation work.
“When you do this project, I think it ought to be first class,” Carson said. ” … I’m not going to say ‘whatever it costs,’ because I’m a taxpayer, too. But I think you need to do the project, and do it up right. I think most of the people in this whole town would appreciate it.”
Board President Kevin Haney said it makes the most sense to renovate the facility for use as an administration building.
“It’s a shame to have such a good building with that much history just sitting there and not getting much use right now,” Haney said. “We’re going to have to spend some money to keep it from deteriorating further, and I don’t think it makes much sense to build a new administration building when we’ve got a building like that.”
The work will be funded from money available in the local construction fund and a transfer of $250,000 from the general fund.
Haney, Gary Clayton and Jeff Elder voted in favor of the measure, and Diana Mosley and Hafer voted against. White and Jeff Alling were absent.
More details on the renovation plans will be featured in an upcoming edition of the Wise County Messenger.