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A look at Ludington bond proposal

April 25, 2019

In less than two weeks, the Ludington Area School Board of Trustees will be asking the community to approve a bond project of more than $100 million.

The $100,935,000 would be for the construction of a new pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade elementary school on the Outcalt Property that is bordered by Bryant Road and Jebavy Drive. It also calls for extensive renovations and expansions at the secondary school complex and work at the Oriole Field athletic complex.

If approved, construction would begin in spring 2020 on a new 143,000-square-foot building for children in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, with construction expected to be completed by fall 2021.

Following the completion of the new elementary building, construction and renovations would begin at the current high school/middle high complex in spring of 2022, with an expected completion date of fall 2024.

The district is looking to renovate more than 97,000 square feet at both the high school and middle school, and complete more than 94,000 square feet of new additions to the complex at an estimated cost of more than $55.6 million.

According to the conceptual drawing provided by the district, the plan calls for improving building security, with updates to secure building entrances as well as a new video surveillance system, a classroom-locking door system and enhanced key card access. Bringing the entire building, which was constructed in the 1950s, up to current building codes would require increasing ADA-accessability and replacing aged infrastructure, including roofs, boilers, plumbing, and mechanical and electrical systems.

Superintendent Jason Kennedy said the most difficult part of the project is to ensure that students are learning and teachers are teaching while construction is taking place at the middle school/high school complex.

“While you can certainly remove walls and connect two classrooms making one large room,” Kennedy said, “it is much more efficient to build a new academic wing than rebuild those classrooms from scratch.”

Kennedy noted that phasing will be a big part of the construction and remodeling process.

“Part of the phasing process will be to isolate the academic wings and finish classroom spaces so that construction can move along,” he said. “Once those are completed, we gain the ability to occupy those wings and move students into those rooms.”

Additional precautions, such as barriers between the construction zone and instructional spaces, are needed when there is teaching and learning going on at the same time as construction, according to Kennedy.

General concept

The specific design for the facilities upgrades would not be completed unless the bond proposal is approved by voters. Kennedy said the reason school districts use a general concept scenario is because of the cost of detailed blueprints and architectural renderings.

“Recognize that the architectural fee for a project like this is going to range anywhere from 5.9 percent to 7 percent (of the total project cost), that I have seen,” Kennedy said.

As an example, Kennedy said that if 6 percent of the total price tag of a $100-million project is for architectural fees, those fees could cost the district $6 million.

“When you start out thinking of the fees required for design, to draw and get plans approved, that is a considerable amount of money,” he said. “For the district to come in and say ‘design this’ and have the voters say ‘no,’ does not make a whole lot of sense. Not to mention, the district does not have the financial capability to write a check of that magnitude without the approval of the voters.”

Kennedy said that during the process of selecting an architectural firm the district made sure to choose a company that offers pre-bond services.

“It means the firm holds community forums, helps the district design informational material, works to ensure the informational campaign for the district meets the requirement of the law in working with our legal council,” Kennedy said. “They help us develop concept scenarios and the application process for the Michigan Department of Treasury, among many other things.”

The district has done its best to educate the voters, Kennedy said.

If the proposal passes May 7, the district will have a short period of time to sell bonds and get money in the construction account.

“In June or July we are really starting the process of design work, which will take several months to work through,” Kennedy said. “The design process will include teachers, parents, community members and groups. Once the plans are finalized, they will be submitted to the Department of Treasury for final qualification approval.”