Some ELO school board members pipe up, but tempers do not boil over

EAST LIVERPOOL – With permission now given by the state to retain the Westgate complex, the city school board Monday night approved repairs to the boilers, but not without lengthy discussion.

The $114,102 bid from Eagle Mechanical LLC was accepted with the provision that $6,750 will be deducted from the cost if the existing burner can be used, which won’t be ascertained until work begins.

The recommendation to accept the bid prompted considerable discussion on the fact that, even though the boilers will be repaired, there are leaking pipes underneath the floor of the building that are part of the heating system.

“If you replace the boiler, you will still have leaky pipes,” Superintendent James Herring confirmed when questioned by board member Richard Wolf about the status of the pipes.

“Then, why aren’t we doing something about it?” board President Janice Martin asked somewhat hotly.

Herring said, “You’re out of time,” noting the project has been discussed for several months and now in order to have the boilers repaired by winter’s colder temperatures, work needs to get under way.

“We’re always under the gun. That’s how we operate here,” Martin complained.

Due to the leaking pipes, Wolf pointed out the district is paying astronomical water bills in addition to the heating costs for the system.

Herring said the only “sure fix” is to replace all the pipes, but he doesn’t have a cost estimate for that, noting, “We probably should take a look at it.”

Board member Robert Estell said the proposed contract is the “cheapest we can get by,” but said if other board members also want to address replacing the water lines, “I’m all for it because I’m all for doing things right.”

The board voted unanimously for the repair contract.

After the meeting, Herring confirmed that the district has been given the go-ahead by the Ohio School Facilities Commission to keep Westgate, which was actually slated for demolition as part of the district’s building improvement project.

He said, however, that no money will be provided by the state to maintain or repair the building.

Treasurer Todd Puster agreed there are two other options through the state the district could explore for repairing the boilers, an emergency program and HB 264 for projects that demonstrate energy conservation.

Wolf said the district “has an obligation” to approach the state to determine if either of those options are workable.

In other facility-related matters, consultant Sam Sowards reported on the status of the Patterson Field improvement project, saying most of the work and inspections are complete, with a few items still to be addressed, such as tile on the shower floors, gutters and sealing the HVAC.

The new restrooms will be used this week for the junior high football game and the entire project will be ready for use during the Sept. 6 varsity game, according to Herring.

The vote on another recommendation passed, but with both Martin and board member Scott Dieringer voting against a contract with the county Educational Service Center (ESC), which had been tabled at the last meeting when questions arose about possible duplication of supervisory services.

When asked Monday what he had learned about the services since then, Herring said part of those include professional development of staff members and support services, such as representatives who work at the elementary buildings.

Asked if the district couldn’t check with other counties’ ESCs to compare services and costs, Herring said that could be done for next year, prompting Martin to ask why it had to wait until then, saying, “We’re talking about $190,000 (the cost of the proposed contract).”

Herring reminded her such a comparison would not be able to be completed in a week’s time and services are needed now with school starting.

Dieringer said he didn’t believe the board had done its due diligence if such a comparison had not been made previously, but Wolf and Walton both indicated it was too late at this point to begin looking at alternatives.

“Had it not come up two weeks ago, we’d continue on the same path, just writing a check and saying, ‘Here you go,'” Martin said.

A contract with the county Board of Developmental Disabilities was tabled after questions arose about the cost.

Wolf asked whether the district could facilitate the 20 students involved in-house, but Herring said they required more special needs than are available, meaning changes in the facilities and additional teachers and training.

When asked how much the contract would cost compared to the expense of the additions he mentioned, Herring could not provide the cost of the contract.

It was agreed the matter would be tabled until the next meeting when the contract cost is to be presented to board members.

A quote of $10,100 from Liberty Distributors Inc. of Tridelphia, W.Va. for 400 cases of white paper was approved, with Puster saying the cost was “very close” to last year’s price, perhaps even a bit less.

A number of personnel matters gained unanimous approval, although Wolf voted against the appointment of three substitute secretaries since one candidate, Janice Dickey, lives outside the school district.