By Rick Dandes
The Daily Item
MANDATA —After more than an hour of vigorous and sharp debate, the Line Mountain school board voted 7-2 to approve an $8.5 million geothermal air conditioning and heating project for the entire high school building, including the new grades 5-6 building addition.
The funds for what was dubbed “Option 1 with alternates” also will cover driveway, window and maintenance shed projects.
The other main option, dubbed Option 3, would have funded a geothermal HVAC unit only for the new grades 5-6 building and would have excluded the main high school structure.
Voting for Option 1 with alternates were directors Troy Laudenslager, Dennis Erdman, Lawrence Neidig, David Scott Bartholomew, Lauren Hackenburg, Ronald Neidig and Daniel Zablosky. Directors Lamont Masser and Marlin Yeager Jr. voted against the measure.
About $1.5 million from the district’s capital fund will go toward paying for the project. The rest should be covered by a $7 million bond issue, Lawrence Neidig said.
No one disputed the value of having air conditioning in the school. The question was one of budgetary restraint.
“Can we afford this?” Masser asked.
Superintendent David Campbell offered the most impassioned plea for climate control in the building. “I want a learning environment that competes in the 21st century,” he said. “We have kids who are actually sweating in the classroom, when it’s 68 degrees, and that’s not conducive to concentrating and learning. The schools we compete against have climate-controlled classrooms. Businessmen starting up charter schools won’t do it without air conditioning.”
Campbell said this is close to a “perfect bidding time. Interest rates are very low. Construction businesses need the work. Material costs are low, but they’ll be rising.”
Before the vote, Laudenslager noted that if the project proceeds now, taxes likely would not have to be raised.
“That’s right,” Campbell said. “We’ve cut costs to the bone. We have nothing left to cut. Our savings have been realized now. Now is the time to do this, before costs and interest rates rise again.”
In the end, a majority of directors agreed with Campbell and Laudenslager.