Board differs on EJ plans

MIFFLINTOWN – Changes to aging infrastructure may not come easy for the Juniata County School District.

A workshop held Thursday between the school board and Reynolds Energy Services, of Harrisburg, began in turmoil among board members regarding potential renovations to East Juniata High School.

Reynolds presented two project options to the board. Option B exploring the possibility of making EJHS a Kindergarten through 12th grade school brought a previously failed motion back to the table. The recommendation to investigate the consolidation of district schools – made by Superintendent Richard Musselman – previously had failed with a close vote during a June 20 meeting.

At the June meeting, Musselman cited academic, fiscal and safety gains as reasons for consolidating to one school. But on Thursday, School Board Director Ray Page refused to consider the option, emphasizing that the recommendation already failed at the hand of the board.

“We as board members need to look at the long term,” urged School Board Director William Book, who requested that the board consider all options.

But Page stood firm.

“It was on the agenda, and it failed,” he said. “It was voted down by the board.

With little room left for negotiation, Reynolds dropped Option B from the presentation to more closely examine Option A the original plan to update outdated monitoring and heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems at EJHS.

Richard Evans, president of Reynolds Energy Services, proposed switching EJHS to a geothermal HVAC system. He said estimates also include new windows, monitoring system upgrades, secured vestibule entry, lighting and electrical upgrades.

To reduce the cost of the project, Evans said the board could choose to reduce the scope of lighting, building monitoring and window renovations.

Additional recommendations to update the building include plumbing system fixture and piping upgrades, electrical system upgrades and roofing repairs.

Evans said the plumbing system is in good condition, so repairs would be minor. However, he said, parts of the electrical system are in “very, very poor condition.”

Reynolds’ proposal also includes minor repairs to Juniata High School and Tuscarora Junior High School. At JHS, the company recommended installing a geothermal HVAC system and building monitoring system. The project at TJHS would include updates to the current propane heating system and installation of a building monitoring system.

As the board considered options, Evans presented a financial analysis based on avoided capital expenses, or “the cost of doing nothing.” He said this calculation is based on the age and condition of existing building and infrastructure and the likelihood of facing major repairs within the next 20 years. Evans said the option to “do nothing” is not recommended, but provides a basis for comparison.

The total projected cost for Option A including basic repairs to EJHS, as well as projected additional repairs to EJHS and minor renovations to JHS, TJHS and other school buildings’ monitoring systems is $12,485,552.

After factoring in estimates for avoided capital expenses, Evans said, “It will cost $1 million less to do the job than not do the job” in the long term.

Also during the meeting, several board members asked Reynolds to provide a cost estimate for expanding the wood shop, building trades program and agricultural education classroom at EJHS.

Reynolds Energy Services is set to put the proposal out to bid today. On Nov. 14, Reynolds will present bid results, and the board is set to select the final project scope. The board is scheduled to take action on the project during a Nov. 21 board meeting.

If the board cohesively agrees to investigate Option B, Evans said Reynolds will present the details at a future meeting.