- Grove City, Pennsylvania

March 28, 2014

District looks to facilities upgrade

By Felicia A. Petro/Senior Reporter
Allied News

GROVE CITY — Grove City schools is looking to upgrade its buildings - with some needing immediate attention.

Superintendent Dr. Richard Mextorf told school board members on Monday about short-term and long-term needs in the district.

Business manager Kim Buchanan listed about $300,000 worth of items that will need attention this year and next year, such as replacing the automatic external defibrillators at all four schools and Forker Field.

The defibrillators are used in the event of someone having a heart attack; each one was purchased at the same time but are now outdated, she said.

Some large items include finishing a carpet replacement cycle this year at Highland Primary Center for $12,000; and an electric gym bleacher system recommended by a firm that inspected the district's bleachers. That would cost about $13,000.

The high school's stage needs about $100,000 in upgrades, which could be done over two years, Buchanan added.

Outdoor safety lighting, a floor scrubber and salt spreader, fence renovations at Forker, roofing, parking lot/sidewalk repairs and carpet at the district office were other needs she discussed. A lift van for handicapped children is needed; the current one has more than 88,000 miles, Buchanan added.

That is low mileage compared to the maintenance department van's more than 145,000 miles. The department will get the lift van and the lift will be removed, Buchanan said. Maintenance also needs a tractor with a plow, she noted.

Some of the items "are things you don't think about every day," Mextorf noted, like the high school stage.

Forker's 10-year turf will need to be replaced in one to four years. That will cost $125,000, which Mextorf suggested to the board possibly spending on a new field.

Forker gets muddy and has issues with bathrooms, parking and handicapped accessibility, he said.

In building the field, "There was some nostalgia in that process," Mextorf said. "It was in the center of town and people could walk."

The high school auditorium sound system is also an immediate need, but may take a couple of years to acquire because Mextorf suggested live stream and recording for programs that would put the estimate at about $100,000.

People could watch on Channel 72 programs like graduation ceremonies with the live streaming feature, he noted.

The most immediate short-term goal in the district is to establish an ad hoc committee of board members to investigate the needs at Highland, which was last renovated in 1990.

Hillview was renovated 1994; the high school, 1997. The middle school was constructed in 2009 - and is the freshest among the buildings.

Another long-term plan would establish a district-wide facilities master plan with the help of a firm, calling it Grove City 2040. "That's in 26 years. It's not that far away," Mextorf said.

"Part of process would be a Citizens Advisory Committee," he added. It would include business, non-profit agencies, community leaders, parents, citizens, experts and teachers.

Mextorf also suggested an energy conservation specialist to look at the short- and long-term needs of the district, and a financial adviser "to look at strategies to afford these things," he said.

"There are three guiding questions," Mextorf added, such as what the role of public education will be in 2040, what type of learning kids will receive and spaces to accommodate that learning.

"Now's the time to do this, to look at short-term and long-term. "The ad hoc committee can at least investigate the needs of Highland and dialog for Forker," he said.

A professional firm could be hired for the 2040 plan, with a citizens advisory council, energy manager and financial adviser.

The district's insurance provider said that Grove City schools was worth close to $81 million; however, its capital reserve is nearly $9 million. "The capital reserve represents 11 percent of what we have to maintain it forever," Mextorf said

The only debt the district has is a bond to fund the middle school project. It is about $7 million, which an 8-year payment cycle that will cost over $600,000 in interest, Buchanan said.

However, the bond was refinanced to reflect those numbers. It was originally about $10 million over 12 years, which would have resulted in nearly $2 million in interest, she added.

"Borrowing money costs us a lot of money. If we fund the capital reserve up front, we won't have the finance costs," Buchanan said.

The district is also putting money into its retirement funds and health care, Mextorf said.

By next month, the board will establish a citizens advisory committee to look into Highland. Director Paul Gubba felt the district should also get a head start in finding a firm to work on Grove City 2040.

Mextorf said by Monday's voting meeting that he will have moved forward in getting firms to give presentations. "I'm willing to look into all of these," he said.

Published March 8, 2014, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.