The Huntsville School Board approved a bid Monday night to install air conditioning in the district’s two main gymnasiums.
The bids were collected and opened by C.R. Crawford, the district’s contractor, and the project was awarded to Wilson’s Heating and Air Conditioning of Van Buren and BEI Electric of Lowell. The bid totals $687,616.
In the last two years, C.R. Crawford has provided cost estimates to the district for the project. The lowest estimate returned then was nearly $800,000.
“If I remember correctly, our first cost opinion in 2017, that’s where it was, and we looked at it again last year with the millage campaign, and we had to adjust it because we saw some volatility with steel prices last fall,” said Phil Jones, who represented the firm, to the board Monday. “We couldn’t be more happy [with the bids] coming below our lowest cost opinion.”
The project will install air conditioning in both the Charles H. Berry Gymnasium in Huntsville and the main gym in St. Paul. Summers have become problematic at the gyms, with internal temperatures exceeding more than 100 degrees during some competitions.
The project is being funded through a millage increase approved by voters earlier this year. Voters approved in May a 3.9-mill increase, raising the district’s millage rate to 36 mills, to fund the air conditioning project, in addition to the construction of two Career and Technical Education facilities and an activity center.
C.R. Crawford officials estimated on Monday that the project will be complete in about four months, though the subcontractors told the board they will “disrupt the gym as little as we can.”
“We’ll coordinate our work around your activities schedule and try to do both projects simultaneously,” said Ryan Noble, C.R. Crawford project estimator and pre-construction specialist.
Noble and Jones said the project will last into the fall because of a wait time for electrical equipment to arrive.
“I think we’re where we want to be, and the next step will be to write to the subcontractors,” Jones said. “We can start getting [equipment] ordered and get it mobilized ... that way we can show the community that this is real, this is starting and we’re on top of this.”
Jones added that the firm will begin looking at cost estimates for the CTE facilities in the near future.
“We talked from Day 1 of the [millage] campaign about hopefully getting those started late this year, and I think we’re still moving in that direction,” he said. “Our next estimate will tell us a lot if we’re still moving on track.”
Huntsville School Board President Danny Thomas complimented Jones on the firm’s work.
“I think you guys did a great job,” he said. “I know it’s been a process for all of us, and we’ve talked in the past and you guys know and understand our urgency ... but it’s been a long time coming for us. We just want people to see what kind of progress we’re making and what’s going on.”
In other business at Monday’s meeting:
• The board approved the summary budget for the 2019-20 school year. The budget reflects a lower balance than last year, Superintendent Dennis Fisher said, due to raises and bonuses awarded to school staff last year.
According to the budget, the district had a total operating balance of $1,352,732 on July 1. The budget calls for an anticipated revenue of $19,132,446, and matching expenditures.
• The board approved salary increases issued last year of five percent or more, as legally required.
• The board approved the district’s annual Minority Recruitment Plan, as legally required.
Huntsville School Board member Terry Forsyth questioned the plan and its meaning, asking, “you get 10 applicants in, you look at their minority status and see what that is and hire them based off of that?” Fisher and Director of Special Education and Student Services Tonja McCone explained that it requires the district to create strategies to recruit minority applicants (for example, by advertising positions in metropolitan areas outside of Madison County).
“In Huntsville and Madison County, we have a low minority population, so it’s just saying we’re going to reach outside of that in more metropolitan areas,” Fisher said.
According to the plan, the district currently has five minority employees and 187 Caucasian employees. The student body, as of Sept. 3, was comprised of 1,832 Caucasian students; 225 Hispanic/Latino students; 86 Asian/Pacific Islander students; 19 Native American students; eight African-American students; and 60 students of two or more races.
“Currently, minority students make up 18 percent of our school’s population, compared to the 16 percent of last year’s school population. Of the minority population, 10.1 percent of the total school population is Hispanic,” the plan states. “...The District is in need of additional faculty and staff members who are fluent in both English and Spanish. Recent hires were found as a result of using local, state and regional media and recruitment efforts are continuing. The district will continue with the goal to recruit teachers with Hispanic backgrounds to better serve the Hispanic population.”
The plan is approved by the school board each year.
• The board approved an increase in breakfast prices for adults, from $2 to $2.75.
• The board approved the resignation of third-grade teacher Amanda Spurlock, and the hiring of Cynthia Soto as a cook/cashier at Huntsville Intermediate School.