March 27, 2013 | Vol. 94, No. 72

Bessemer school board seeks bond referendum

BESSEMER — The Bessemer Area Schools Board of Education is asking voters to approve a $6.67 million bond referendum for what officials are calling a “major infrastructure update.”

Larry Holcombe/Daily Globe
Sun shines on A.D. Johnston Junior-Senior High School in Bessemer Monday. The Bessemer Area Schools Board of Education is asking voters to approve a $6.67 million bond referendum for infrastructure updates.

The district is looking to create a more energy-efficient, healthy and safe educational environment at both schools, according to district administrator Mark Johnson.

The school board approved a bond referendum request this month and plans to hold two public meetings to discuss the project. The first will be April 16 at 6:30 p.m. at the high school. The second meeting will be April 30, at a time and place yet to be determined.

The election will be on May 7.

Over the 25-year bond term, the district is expected to save $1.4 million in energy costs — money that can be returned to the general fund for educational purposes, according to Johnson.

Board member Dave Osier said the upgrades will help to correct many problems that have been developing over years at A.D. Johnston Junior-Senior High and Washington Elementary.

“The investment we will be making as a community would be well worth it to help ensure the safety and health of students and staff, while we also improve our educational environment,” said Osier. “The students and staff deserve to have the best of everything and this is another way we can help make that happen.”

The proposal seeks to levy 7 mills for 25 years, and it replaces the current 3.5-mill levy from 1993 that funded the an addition and renovations to the high school that allowed the junior high to move from Washington School. The 1993 levy is set to expire in 2019.

The new bond also includes refinancing the 1993 debt at a lower interest rate, said Johnson.

Johnson said the new bond’s cost to the average homeowner is expected to be about $10 per month, adding there would be no other capital outlay required to complete the project.

The project will include heating and ventilating upgrades, lighting retrofits, window and roof replacements, updated building controls and water conservation measures at both schools. Flooring and external building repairs and directional signage will be part of the project at ADJ.

The bond also contains money for the acquisition of two buses.

Other important parts of project include information technology upgrades. That will include improvements to the district’s network, an Internet-based telephone system, new desktop and laptop computers, projectors and data backup systems. A security system with cameras and access control components will be installed.

The project also includes an asbestos and lead abatement program.

Johnson said the district strives to allocate funds wisely to provide the finest possible education for district students.

“With the current energy inefficiencies we are experiencing, we are not only wasting energy, but also real dollars by attempting to keep old and inefficient mechanical and lighting systems operating,” he said. “The time has come to move our schools into the 21st century and save money that can be put to use in the classrooms to help educate our students.”

Work on the project would begin immediately upon a successful bond vote, with completion expected by spring of 2014.

The project manager, Johnson Controls, has guaranteed energy cost savings. The company has managed and implemented hundreds of similar projects across the country, said Johnson.

“The Bessemer community has always been willing to step up and do what’s necessary to ensure that our students have everything they need to succeed,” Johnson said. “The community, staff and students have worked very diligently to develop this school system into a leader in education and this project will only enhance educational opportunities for our students.”