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School Board trims project to air condition John Swett, Las Juntas

By DONNA BETH WEILENMAN
Martinez Tribune

MARTINEZ, Calif. – The cost estimate to air condition both John Swett and Las Juntas elementary schools came in at about $1 million more than was budgeted.

But the Martinez Unified School District Board of Education agreed to a slimmed-down version of the project that would let children learn in comfortable temperatures by the start of the next school year.

Architect Marcus Hibser told the Board Monday, Dec. 14, it could modify the scope of work so that classrooms and multipurpose rooms at both schools could be air conditioned. However, it meant foregoing adding insulation and replacing less energy-efficient windows.

According to the district’s Master Facilities Plan, a document the Board also reviewed that night, some of the Las Juntas buildings that were under consideration for those upgrades would be demolished in the future as the district seeks to upgrade its schools for better traffic flow, improved safety and more efficient use that meet modern needs.

By dropping the added insulation and new windows from the project, air conditioning equipment could be added to existing heaters, and the work could be classified as maintenance. That would make the work eligible for a different source of funding, instead of the remaining Measure K bond money.

The approved budget for air conditioning Las Juntas Elementary School is $1,752,850.

The approved budget for John Swett Elementary School’s air conditioning of classrooms, the library and the multipurpose room is $1.33 million, which includes air conditioning, controls and a study of ways to make the school more energy efficient (called the “envelope”).

While the construction cost of the air conditioning and controls came in nearly $60,000 more than the budgeted $420,000, the envelope estimates came in at more than $1.54 million, far more than the $644,000 budgeted.

Hibser said the situation with the Las Juntas project was similar to that of John Swett. The approved budget for the air conditioning and controls was $720,000, with estimates coming in at $780,964. But the budget for envelope work was $682,280, not the nearly $1.7 million estimates the district received.

He recommended proceeding with the air conditioning, but dropping the insulation and replacement windows, and by modifying the existing heating systems to add air conditioning coils and condensing units, the district would consider some of the work as maintenance, saving the school system an additional $90,000.

Hibser said California Proposition 39 provides grant money for energy-efficiency projects, but he cautioned the Board against hoping such money could be obtained for insulation and windows, although he also conceded that by dropping those elements, some of the cooled air would seep outside.
“They want you to show a return for the investment, and you can’t make it work with windows and walls,” he said.

In addition, the units that would be installed could be moved to other schools should the district obtain funding to tackle the construction projects recommended in the Master Facilities Plan. However, since there is no money yet available for that plan’s projects, the district has no timetable for any school buildings’ demolition, Superintendent Rami Muth said.

However, because the district has that plan, Trustee Denise Elsken said extensive work on buildings slated for demolition “is a waste of money.” Nor could she see asking taxpayers to fund the difference in the money earmarked for the project and the estimated costs.

However, she agreed to the project, saying, “You’re going to give the kids air conditioning and make them comfortable.”

Trustee Kathi McLaughlin said Hibser “made a great case at the beginning” when he recommended energy-efficient jobs to be done at the same time the air conditioning is installed.
But those additions would make the project unaffordable, she said.

While the Board could take months to tweak Measure K expenditures to try to find the extra money to pay for the original scope of work, she said of the trimmed down version: “We can do these projects this summer.”

“We want to do this as efficiently as possible with the least amount of waste as possible,” Trustee Bobbi Horack said. “We will be air conditioning a little of the outside, but we’ll be providing air conditioning for the kids.”

“The public has spoken loudly. They want kids to have air conditioning as soon as possible,” Trustee John Fuller said. “What I keep hearing is the kids are hot and they need to be cool.”

Also at the Monday, Dec. 14, meeting, the Board approved a contract with C.J. Cammack, who will be the district’s next superintendent after Muth retires at the end of the school year.

He will be paid $185,000 annually. He may participate at his own expense in the district’s health and welfare benefit insurance plans, and will be reimbursed for work-related expenses. The contract concludes June 30, 2020.

In other matters, the Board chose Deidre Siguenza as its new president. Horack is the Board’s new vice president, and Fuller, who had been the president, is its clerk.

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