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Interest high in high school renovation project

BALTIMORE – Contractor interest is high for the Liberty Union-Thurston High School renovation project, architect Michael Paplow told school board members Monday night.

A pre-bid meeting Sept. 10 attracted about 35 contractor representatives. High school tours for potential contractors are set for Tuesday, Sept. 15 and Wednesday, Sept. 16. Bids are due at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 24, but that deadline might be extended a week to provide more time for contractors to ask questions about the project. Paplow said providing more time to ask questions will lead to tighter bids.

Bids for construction of the new middle school will likely go out in two to three weeks so contractors can focus now on the high school renovation project. By staggering the bids, district officials hope that unsuccessful bidders for the high school project ‘will sharpen their pencils’ for the middle school.

July’s bid for site preparation for the new middle school came in $175,000 below the estimate. That savings allows the district to move from a hybrid geothermal system for heating and cooling to a total geothermal system. The hybrid system, which is about 50:50 geothermal and conventional technology, requires a conventional backup system and considerable controls. A total geothermal system, which uses the relatively constant temperature of groundwater for heating and cooling, requires fewer controls and maintenance than the hybrid system. However, it will require a greatly expanded well field. The district expects considerable savings over the system’s lifetime since fuel won’t be used to generate heat or cool air. Electricity will be needed to run the system’s pumps, heat exchangers and fans. Maintenance costs will also be significantly reduced. The change to the full system must be approved by the Ohio School Facilities Commission.

In other business, board members approved a $17,280 services contract with Barbara A. Long to serve as the Caring Connections counselor at the elementary school. The local, non-profit Caring Connections organization is responsible for $11,520 of the contract with The Sands Foundation and the district coming up with the rest.

Hugh Schaffner of the Baltimore Lions Club presented a $1,000 check to Caring Connections at the meeting. Dr. Mike Bruning, president of the Faith Lutheran Church Council, gave a $959 check to Caring Connections. Earlier, Faith Lutheran had sold a partial acre corner of land to the district to allow the middle school to be sited closer to the elementary school. The price was $1,000 and the church decided to give it back to benefit the elementary school after paying the $41 recording fee. “The school district has been very good to us,” Bruning told board members. Until it recently completed its church, Faith Lutheran held services in the elementary school.

One of the district’s three new teachers was present to be introduced to board members. Liberty Union graduate Ashleigh Miller came to the district from Canal Winchester. She is an intervention specialist with degrees and certifications from OSU and Muskingum College.

Superintendent Paul Mathews said the district had recently been awarded a Green Fleet award by the Ohio Department of Transportation for increasing the efficiency and reducing emissions of its school bus fleet. Some 10 to 15 districts received the award, but only a couple including Liberty Union received the three star award. The district’s achieve- ments were also recognized by a commendation from the Ohio Senate, signed by Senate President Bill Harris and State Senator Tim Schaffer.

Mathews presented transportation coordinator Judy Cleland with a letter of thanks from the board for her efforts. Thanks to Cleland, Mathews said, Liberty Union was the first district in Fairfield County to seek and receive a grant to reduce school bus emissions.

Board members also accepted Cleland’s recommendation that the district switch from buying diesel fuel from Earhart Petroleum to Great Lakes Petroleum. She has been monitoring diesel fuel prices and believes the district can save at least $60 per load with Great Lakes. The change doesn’t require a term commitment to Great Lakes.

This year the district is running 11 local bus routes and three special education routes including two trips into Columbus to the School for the Blind. An economy car was purchased to serve that route.

“We do a lot of sharing (with other districts on special routes),” Mathews said.

Basil Joint Fire District Assistant Chief Kasey Farmer explained the fire district’s threemill replacement levy that will be on the Nov. 3 ballot. The levy hasn’t been replaced since voters originally approved it 15 years ago. It is now being collected at 1.3 mills. If voters approve, the collection rate will return to the original three mills.

The additional money will be used to upgrade the Stoudertown Road substation and hopefully buy a new combination truck in 2011. The substation wasn’t designed for three firefighters to be living there around the clock. A meeting room available for community use, an additional truck bay and a gear room will be added to the substation.

“We get top-notch service (from the fire district),” Mathews said.

During his financial report, District Treasurer David Butler reported that income tax revenue is still down. As he explained July’s expenses, one stood out. The district is paying $50 per day per student for three district students incarcerated in the multi-county juvenile detention center in Lancaster. The three were there in July and August so a similar bill will be coming for August.

Mathews said the students weren’t being incarcerated for anything that happened at school, but that doesn’t matter. While he accepts the principle that the district would have to educate the students if they were attending school, he questions why the district is charged when school is not in session like during the summer, holidays and weekends. The charge is supposed to be based on the cost to educate students while in detention. The daily charge recently increased and both Butler and Mathews believe that the district should probably include an estimate for these fees in its annual budget.

Board members also approved three trip requests.

• Sixth grade outdoor education program March 29-31 at Camp Pilgrim Hills.

• FFA National Convention Oct. 21-24 in Indianapolis.

• Eighth grade Washington, DC trip May 19-21.

The board’s next regular meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 12, in the high school library.

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