Thursday, April 25th, 2013
By Amy Kronenberger
Payment uncertainty remains
$1.7 million repair project begins at St. Marys school
  ST. MARYS - The calcium-stained blocks on the new middle/high school building are being removed and replaced with brick.
Who's paying for the $1.76 million project is yet to be determined.
School board member Ralph Wiley on Wednesday read a public statement on the issue. Board members made no other comments.
"The (Ohio Facilities Construction Commission) has authorized the St. Marys school district's board of education to move forward with the repair of the efflorescence staining on the exterior masonry walls," Wiley read from the statement. "The problems with the masonry arose because members of the construction team failed to provide quality masonry walls for our building, and we are committed to correcting the problem and holding the responsible parties accountable."
The OFCC, which helped fund the original construction of the school in 2010, agreed to pay 61 percent of the cost. District officials also are working with Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine to seek litigation against Ferguson Construction, Sidney, the company that provided the block.
Wiley said the board hopes to be reimbursed for the repair costs. If litigation is unsuccessful, the district will pay its 39 percent, $687,180, from the Locally Funded Initiative fund, which contains about $3.5 million leftover from the construction project.
District business manager Kurt Kuffner has said officials don't yet know how much LFI money will remain for the district; funds can only be used for building maintenance or paying down the construction debt. A portion of the money will go back to the state when the construction project is closed out.
When building the $36.5 million school in 2010, officials were told to expect some efflorescence - a common, white powdery crystalized substance - on the split-faced blocks on the outside of the building. The natural chemical reaction of moisture with the porous block is common on new buildings and easily scrubs off, officials were told.
However, after many different cleaning attempts, the white blooms remained. It is solely a cosmetic issue.
"The goal of the board of education with this repair work is to make sure that our building and grounds continue to be a source of pride for our community," Wiley read from the statement. "It is our commitment to continue to work proactively to correct this problem."
Officials hope to have the work, which began earlier this month, completed by the start of next school year. The work is being done by Hagerman Group of Fort Wayne, Ind., which submitted the low bid of $1.762 million. The estimated cost was $1.865 million.
Also at Wednesday's meeting, FFA members Marissa Engle and Chelsea Yahl asked the board to reconsider including the vocational agriculture program on the list of cuts that would go into effect if the upcoming levy fails.
"Agriculture is very important," Engle said. "We wouldn't have food on our tables or clothes on our backs without agriculture."
Both seniors said they intend to major in agriculture-related subjects in college and found what they learned in the FFA and vo-ag classes invaluable. They also stressed that they know of many students who would transfer schools if the program were cut.
"I know that a lot of kids are not going to get the opportunities I had," Yahl said. "I want to major in agri-business, and the FFA has taught me so much."
The board did not comment.
Earlier this month, the board approved a list of program cuts that will be implemented if the combined 5-mill property and 1 percent earned income tax levy fails at the May 7 primary election. The levy would bring in $3.25 million annually for operating costs.
Along with the vo-ag program, cuts include non-mandated busing, all-day, everyday kindergarten and most programs not required by the state as part of the core curriculum. The board also approved implementing a pay-to-play policy for extracurricular activities.
Recent cuts have covered predicted deficits for this year and next, but the district is still spending nearly $1 million more a year than it takes in. The deficit grows by an estimated $4 million each year without additional revenue, treasurer Tom Sommer has said.
In other action, the board,
• listened to resident Bob Valentine suggest purchasing one or two shuttle buses that would pick up and drop off kids at Kroger and other nearby businesses so kids would not have to walk across the state Route 66 overpass. The board did not comment.
• approved the retirement of Marcia McJunkin, primary school paraprofessional, 26 years of service; and Carole Bowman, intermediate school paraprofessional, 26 years of service.
• approved the resignations of high school principal David Lewis; assistant high school principal Brian Best; high school nurse Diane Schulze; part-time custodian Bre McMurray; and assistant girls soccer coach Jeff James.
• approved various contract renewals and changes.
• approved the list of senior honor students.
• appointed Joint Township District Memorial Hospital, St. Marys, to conduct all van and bus driver physicals.
• authorized Bricker and Eckler attorney's to represent the board to obtain appropriate compensation for the use of the board's educational broadband service license.
• approved a memorandum of understanding with the Ohio Association of Public School Employees, Local 043. The two sides agreed to amend a section of the collective bargaining agreement to allow a minimum four members of the bargaining unit, on an annual basis, to authorize a deduction. The original agreement required a minimum of five people.
• approved fencing and concrete work at the varsity soccer complex as part of annual permanent improvement projects. Total cost is $9,889 and will be paid through the permanent improvement fund.
• approved a resolution expressing the board's opposition to House Bill 59, which transfers public dollars to support private education.
• approved an overnight trip for the FFA to the Ohio State FFA Convention on May 2 and 3.

Clarification:
The article stated, "District business manager Kurt Kuffner has said officials don't yet know how much LFI money will remain for the district; funds can only be used for building maintenance or paying down the construction debt. A portion of the money will go back to the state when the construction project is closed out."
Kuffner did not supply the information regarding how the leftover funds can be used. That information was previously supplied to the newspaper by school treasurer Tom Sommer.
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