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Buildings and Grounds Committee discusses 1925 CHS building

  • Pictured is the 1925 section of Chester High School.

    Pictured is the 1925 section of Chester High School.
    Pete Spitler/Herald Tribune

By Pete Spitler
updated: 12/20/2017 2:42 PM

With the Chester school district believed to be inching higher on the state's construction list, discussion has begun regarding a master plan for the future of the district's academic buildings.
The Chester District 139 Board of Education's Buildings and Grounds Committee, which includes board members Dan Colvis and Trent Vasquez, met with Superintendent Brian Pasero on December 15 to look over some potential options for the district.
Nothing is imminent, and no action was taken at the meeting, but it appears the committee would like to investigate options on either renovating or replacing the nearly 93-year-old 1925 section of Chester High School.
"We've already been doing some upkeep, but there's no getting around the age of the building," Pasero said.
Pasero noted the district is on the state's 2004 construction grant list for a total of $2.29 million. If awarded, the district would be responsible for coming up with $762,000 in matching funds, most likely through a bond referendum.
"But the grant has been suspended until further notice," Pasero said.
Pasero noted that construction costs only go up the longer it takes for the grant to be awarded and that he doesn't believe $2.29 million would be enough to cover the cost of replacing a three-story building like the 1925 section.
"Our bonding ability is nowhere near what you need to have without legislation from the state," he said.
Pasero noted he thinks the cost of replacing the building to be similar to that of the gymnasium project at Chester Grade School, which had a price tag of $5.87 million. In that project, $4.4 million of the cost of replacing the original condemned gym came from the state's Capital Development Board construction program.
Pasero said the state considers natural disasters, overcrowding, consolidation and health, life and safety issues when awarding grants.
He mentioned that he had spoken with Steeleville Superintendent Stephanie Mulholland on if the consolidation topic had ever been brought up and was told that whenever it did, it was quickly shot down.
In 2014, as part of a Randolph County economic summit at Christ Our Savior Lutheran High School, various county officials and interested persons discussed the possibility of constructing a county high school near Walsh.
The topic has not been publicly revisited since.
"I don't think (consolidation) would be anything we would be looking at because I don't think anybody's interested," Pasero said.
Colvis noted the building has had roofing issues during the past 10 years and wondered the condition of its structural steel due to that. He said he believed the district's architects, Baysinger Architects, had prepared a previous report two years ago and would like to find it and use it as a foundation for determining what the district does.
"To me, remodeling is something to at least investigate," he said.
Pasero noted much of the district's facility tax money is tied up in bonds, but said the county's 1 percent sales tax add-on is a positive.
"I think it's important to look at the money collected for that use," he said. "It's a big bonus for us just on the general upkeep."
Pasero said $500,000 of the $640,000 the district collects from the tax per year goes to bond payments. The remaining $140,000 surplus goes to a fund that had $1.4 million as of the start of fiscal year 2018 in July.
"We're not sitting on enough currently if $6 million is needed," he said.
Colvis asked about the possibility of the district paying off the bonds early and Pasero said he would look into it.
The committee also briefly discussed Chester Grade School, which Pasero said is in pretty good shape following a replacement of the HVAC system for the band room. Vasquez asked about the structural cracks that have been mentioned at previous board meetings.
"To my knowledge, after speaking with Baysinger, those have not progressed," Pasero said.
The full Chester school board is scheduled to meet Thursday at 7 p.m. at CGS for its regular December meeting.

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