In 2010, officials within the Westfield School District began discussions with contractors about the possibility of engaging in projects that would involve replacing the roofs of district buildings while also installing solar panels on the roofs to help the district conserve energy.
Requests for proposals were issued in the fall of 2010 and then again in the summer of 2011. One contractor responded, but after four months of negotiations, he concluded that the project would not be cost efficient given the state of the district’s roofs.
It became apparent the roofs needed fixing, and fast. But rather than work on them incrementally over a number of years, the district Tuesday night suggested it may opt for one sweeping, multi-million dollar renovation that would include replacing the roofs of all district buildings over the course of just a few months.
George Duthie, the district’s architect, gave a detailed presentation to the Tuesday night that proposed replacing all of the district roofs in the summer of 2013 for an estimated cost of $13 million. Duthie said the roofs in place now are failing and have extended beyond their useful life. His plan would include removal of the current roofs and the installation of 421,760 square feet of new roofing – the equivalent of nearly 10 football fields.
In order to fund such a significant project, the district would need to pursue a bond, rather than pay for the project with capital funds over a 10- or 15-year period. Jane Clancy, Chair of the Facilities Committee, said the committee will meet with the Finance Committee Thursday to discuss its options.
The Board did not question the need to improve the roofs. Duthie presented photos and observations made in a report that detailed leaking and dilapidated roofs throughout the district, all of which are more than 20 years old. Duthie said the new roofs would have a 20-year warranty and, if well-maintained, they would last longer than that.
The repair necessary at some schools is more substantial than others. For example, Duthie’s report suggested that needs more than $4 million worth of work done to its roof. Another $2.3 million of work is needed at . The report also included details for smaller projects, including $226,000 worth of work to the roof of the stadium field house and $85,000 to .
Though he acknowledged the proposal was “ambitious,” Duthie said the project could be completed over the summer of 2013 with the help of four contractors. He said one contractor would be needed solely to work on the high school’s roof.
Several factors support carrying out the project sooner rather than later, Duthie said. Construction costs are still favorable and will only increase in time. Costs of other materials, such as petroleum-based products like roofing, are also expected to rise. Given the scope of the project, he was confident the district could receive good rates on materials.
Choosing to replace the roofs over a longer period of time also would also present several problems. For one, there is no guarantee the district will have the capital funds available to pay for it. State aid remains an uncertainty year-to-year. Even if the project was properly funded, the district would incur the additional costs of patching up leaks and other problems that occur in the interim to roofs that would not be fixed until the later part of the project.
In addition to saving the district money on materials, Duthie said tackling the project soon would also help conserve energy.
“This system will be solar-ready,” he said. Though he said it would be difficult to quantify exactly how much energy would be saved with the new roofs, Duthie said the savings would be “absolutely significant.”
The presentation was well-received by the Board, which seemed to agree that the benefits of fixing the roofs soon are greater than they would be if they took an incremental approach.
“We have our arms around the magnitude of the problem,” Board President Richard Mattessich said.
Prior to Duthie’s presentation, the Board’s Business Administrator Vincent Yaniro provided detail on the funds allocated to buildings and grounds in the tentative 2012-2013 budget, which will be approved on March 27.
The portion of the budget dedicated to buildings and grounds is projected to be less than the amount allocated for the 2011-2012 school year. Though there is an estimated increase of $88,707 for operating costs, the district’s projected energy costs will be $95,000 less than this year. A total of $5,664,032 is proposed for buildings and grounds, down from this year’s total of $5,670,325.
Yaniro highlighted major maintenance projects completed by the district during the 2011-2012 school year. The projects cost a total of $368,000. At the high school, 400 aged lockers were replaced, as was the roof over Gym 5. The roof over the girls’ locker room at Edison was replaced, and sealed and waterproofed brick work was done at . Parking lots were repaved at seven schools, either entirely or partially.
The planned projects for the 2012-2013 school year, which the district intends to start funding this summer, total about $2.2 million. The projects include replacing the boilers at Franklin and McKinley Elementary Schools (Yaniro said the boilers are “the worst in the district”). The projects also include the final stage of Edison window installations and the second of a four-stage replacement of a portion of the high school’s lockers. Other projects include replacing the high school’s stage rigging, replacing the bleachers in Roosevelt’s gym, HVAC upgrades and some major miscellaneous repairs.
The Board’s next public meeting is next Tuesday, March 13, when they will continue discussing the budget for next school year.