Proposed plans for Philip school

Proposed Philip school building project community meeting


by Del Bartels
A community informational meeting for the proposed Philip School building project was held, Tuesday, March 1.
This meeting was for two-way informational exchange with the public. The first public meeting to determine action, if any, is Thursday, March 10, at 6:30 p.m.
A large crowd in the Philip High School fine arts building listened to blueprint and financial proposals. Board member Doug Thorson first explained the long process of determining that starting new would be better in the long run that renovation of the old buildings and utilities. The geothermal well, its receiving lagoons, the 1920s two-story elementary building, decrepit plumbing in the main elementary building, and other needs have added up to an approximate $5.2 million.
“I don’t know about you, but that’s a lot of money to put into old buildings,” said Thorson. These renovations would not address putting everything under one roof and creating a school site where security shut-down protocols would be possible.
Tim Cheever, Upper Deck Architects, Rapid City, explained details on the preliminary blueprint. The planning, though going for as economical as possible, is for a building that has an estimated life expectancy of 50 years. The base project is for an approximate $215 cost per square foot.
Cheever said any new building, even if not going with the suggested blueprints, should include what can be used of the existing structures, particularly the two gymnasiums. A new building must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and should accommodate emergency security shut-down protocols.
Replying to an audience question, Cheever said the new building would not be a tornado shelter. ADA regulations for that would greatly increase the costs.
The suggested preliminary blueprint would use the fine arts building and the armory gymnasium, and expand northward. Two wings, one for the secondary classrooms and one for the elementary and special education, would extend across the road into the empty field. Though 57 parking spaces would disappear, space for  over double that many could be found in surrounding areas.
The kitchen area would be approximately four times the current kitchen size. The cafeteria would include the current commons area and expand northward, and could be used by the public during sports events and other activities. The library would be about the same size as the current library. A main entranceway would be the only access to the building during school hours, with other doors electronically locking to outside access once classes begin. A visitor would be buzzed into the office area before being allowed into the rest of the building.
Toby Morris, Dougherty Company, Pierre, explained the financial proposal. In 2014, the school district asked to raise its capital outlay’s 1.5 mill levy up to the state maximum of 3.0. This was in anticipation of geothermal problems, which a grant has since assisted with. Due to an accounting error, it was raised to only 2.41 mills. That has been corrected. Over the next 20 years, those capital outlay taxes will pay for the new structure, or those taxes will pay for continual repairs and renovations to the existing structures and utilities.
If capital outlay revenues were not used, a general obligation would have to be passed, and that would be a new tax. A new tax requires approval by 60 percent of the voters. Morris stressed that the school district does not want to do that for this project.
The next 20 years of capital outlay revenue is sufficient to support the debt for a $9 million project. Engineering estimates and updates would be finalized in a bid being awarded to a general contractor. The total of the main bid and any bids for options would have to be under $9 million.
Morris concluded his financial presentation with, “We are going to be the gatekeepers for the project.”
Thorson added his optimism to the capital outlay projections, “Don’t want to make any promises, but I would say we might be overtaxing at the completion of this project.” 
The project, once bid, should take approximately 14 months to complete.
During audience questions and comments, Morehart addressed the possibility of a population growth within the school district. The projected classrooms are designed for 24 students, with one extra classroom. There is room for growth. “That would be a good problem to have, if we increased our student body. We would accomodate,” said Morehart. He illustrated that students now carry heavy bookbags between buildings, but being under one roof they would have time between classes to visit their lockers more often. He challenged 15 audience members to enter a fine arts building locker room to see if they comfortably fit, and consider that visiting teams are often more larger than 15 members “It’s a great service when these teams come here, use the school and the town, and spend money,” said Morehart.
An audience member was applauded after stating that these buildings have served the community well. That person stated that the members of the school board are not planning to put the public under with this project. If anyone does not know something, go ask, they encouraged.
Morehart concluded, “Nothing is set in stone. It’s a rough draft. Been talking about this 14-16 months. We are not in any hurry. We are conservative. Ask our teachers about their wages; we are conservative. We’ve looked at this, with Britni Ross our business manager, in case of emergencies. We are not jumping into this cold.”
Board of Education President Scott Breck closed with, “It’s not the school itself, but a community thing.” He said visitors, particularly potential residents, look at the school and the hospital.
The videotaped meeting can be seen on the community television channel.
The next regular board of education meeting is Monday, March 14, in the school library, starting at 7:00 p.m.

The Pioneer Review

221 E. Oak Street
Philip, SD 57567
Telephone: (605) 859-2516
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