Dallastown Area school board approves $22.6M elementary project
After years of planning, the Dallastown Area School Board voted to move forward with bids for a roughly $22.6 million update to Loganville-Springfield Elementary School at a special meeting Thursday, Dec. 20.
"We’ve needed something for a long time," said board member Michael Noll Jr.
The idea first emerged at a 2015 board retreat, said Superintendent Ronald Dyer, and since then the board has been working with parents, local leaders — including the presidents of Loganville and Jacobus borough councils — and former board members on a facilities study committee.
The committee visited other schools and put in hard work to prepare a list of must-haves and needs, and “I think we honored that," Dyer said.
The project will include a 34,362-square-foot addition and renovations to a 56,866-square-foot structure, featuring a new front entrance; added safety features; an updated cafeteria, library and computer room; large group areas and classrooms and a courtyard, gym and stage, according to a 3D rendering.
Some county and state approvals are still needed, but Dyer said the district is “within striking range” of completing that process.
Approving the intent to award bids, however, allows the district to move forward and inform contractors to start preparing for construction, which Dyer hopes will begin by the end of January.
Bids: The district will award the general contract to Lobar Inc., which has an office in Carroll Township; heating and ventilating to Perry County-based Lugaila Mechanical Inc.; plumbing to Lancaster County-based Jay R. Reynolds Inc.; and electrical to Dillsburg-based Midstate Mechanical & Electrical LLC.
The bid totals came in at about $19.27 million, but asbestos abatement, architectural fees from Lancaster-based RLPS Architects and other construction-related costs bumped up the final cost.
The project had an original goal of $20 million, but in January, the board voted to up the cap to $24 million.
Dissent: Some board members said the board should have tried harder to stick to its original goal.
"We were never given the opportunity to see what $20 million dollars would get us," said Tony Pantano, reading from a prepared statement.
"Remember, our schools are not our buildings," he added, saying a school is defined by its students, teachers, parents and administrators, and although an update is long overdue, he's not sure the cost had to be so high.
Michael Jones and Noll echoed his statements.
"I think where we (maybe) can look back and say maybe we could have done better ... was carrying an alternative down the pathway with the prime, or let’s say leading design," Noll said.
Vice President John Hartman disagreed, saying adjusting goals as you learn more is part of the process.
"I really am convinced we did this for the right price for the right reason," said William Lytle, noting that the district got the best value and safety by building around its 1950s wing and keeping the playground behind the school.
Board President Ronald Blevins also said the updates were not lavish, "or, to coin a phrase that was used on a previous project, it wasn’t a Taj Mahal," he said.
Savings: In fact, the board found a couple of ways to save money in the long run, Blevins said, such as refinancing some bonds so its annual debt service payment would not increase.
"I can’t sit here and guarantee you that Dallastown’s taxes will never go up, but I can promise you that they won’t go up because of this project," he said.
Despite voting no on the approval, however, the dissenting members said they are committed to supporting the project moving forward, and Hartman, in turn, said having challenging voices helped the process.
PTO President Jillian Mastromatteo agreed with Hartman, saying, "It means that you’re putting a lot of thought and care into it, and that’s all we really ask for."
"Maybe an analogy might be you can lose a football game but you can still certainly be happy for the winning team," Jones said, clarifying that he knows when it comes to the school, everyone is really on the same team.