Barr-Reeve looks at $7.8 million project

Barr-Reeve looks at $7.8 million project
  1. Barr-Reeve looks at $7.8 million project
    MONTGOMERY -- Barr-Reeve school officials are inviting the public to get a first-hand look and explanation for a possible construction project. After three years of study and examination by two completely different boards, the school is now looking at…
    Indiana (IN)

MONTGOMERY -- Barr-Reeve school officials are inviting the public to get a first-hand look and explanation for a possible construction project. After three years of study and examination by two completely different boards, the school is now looking at a $7 million to $8 million project and they want the public to get involved.

"We're going to give every opportunity we can for folks to give input and ask questions," said Barr-Reeve School Superintendent Travis Madison. "I know in a small community we sometimes rely on a lot of unofficial sources of information. I am more than willing to show them everything and explain it."

School officials have been meeting for the past year with the board and public trying to put the potential project together. The next hearing will be Tuesday at 6 p.m. in the Middle-High School Cafeteria.

"We haven't had the greatest attendance at our meetings and that fuels my fear about what kind of information is getting out there," said Madison, who says that besides the formal meetings he plans to conduct informal tours of the building so on the first two Mondays in June to show people the needed changes.

The project proposal began with an evaluation of the current facility, but it grew as the school population increased over the last few years. Madison says the building is in great shape now, but some of the elements are beginning to show some age.

"We need to do a lot of things in the walls and on the roof," he said. "We are right at that tipping point. We're starting to see some issues with the HVAC and it is time to start protecting the facility. We also have as big of a student population as we have ever had. It's been increasing over the last four or five years and doesn't look to be slowing down any time soon."

The plan calls for putting all of the system's students in the current building. Interior renovations would add 13 classrooms. Some would go in the old gymnasium. The rooms would include space for the primary students, move the shop and industrial tech classes into the main building and add a science lab. The project also calls for specific chorus and band rooms at a cost of $1.7 million.

"We have great pride in our music and band programs and right now they are just being held in regular classrooms," said Madison. "Those are things that are often last on the list, but we wanted to put them toward the front."

Converting some current space to classrooms may be a big ticket part of the project, but about two-thirds of the cost will be on the aging mechanical equipment in the building.

"Most of it will be out of sight," said Madison. "New chillers on the roof, new HVAC directed the right way to make certain the classrooms are more comfortable and the air quality is better. We want to get all of these things taken care of. We want this to last a generation."

Right now the plans do not include the use of the Primary Building at St. Peter's. School officials considered spending as much as $1.2 million to upgrade the building, but found a problem when it came time to pay for the project.

"It is impossible for us to do the financing and do work on a building we don't own," said Madison.

Barr-Reeve has a long running lease on the building with the Evansville Diocese and has considered making a purchase offer, but that would take time that school officials need to pursue a potentially advantageous financing option called a QZAB.

"The QZAB is an option that could take care of a lot of this that would be a lot more friendly to the tax rate, if we can get this ready to bid this summer," said Madison.

QZAB is an expiring funding that a school system can use to pay for improvements if it does not involve new construction. The money is offered as a loan through the Department of Education with either very low or no interest. It is offered on a first-come, first-serve basis and Barr-Reeve is hoping to get into the front of the line.

"If the QZAB falls through and the community says they want us to stay in the Primary, then we might go back and pursue the option to purchase the building," said Madison.

The corporation has had its financial advisors look at the impact a building project might have on the tax rate. Madison says they were directed to look at the highest expected interest rate, a static assessed valuation, and funding that does not include the QZAB money. The result was a worst case scenario increase of 18 cents (per $100 property valuation).

"We have one of the lowest tax rates…

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