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Stepping into the future

SPRING VALLEY — The Hall High School Board took a few steps toward making a new building a reality at Wednesday’s board meeting.

The board unanimously authorized architect Healy, Bender of Naperville to move into the next phase of the planning project.

The board hired Healy, Bender to do an assessment of the building. After looking at an estimated price tag of $18 million to bring the building up to code, in September the board approved building a new school at an estimated cost of $32 million. The project will need to be approved by voters in the April 9 election.

On Wednesday, Dave Patton told the board they had done enough design to establish some preliminary budgets, but there was still a lot of work to be done. He said they would like to get their engineers started on issues such as building systems, siting of the building, underground pipes, storm water management and parking issues.

The next phase is the preparation of schematic plans for the project.

For example, Patton said they have designated a section of the new building for administration offices, but schematic planning would determine the exact location of the offices. Patton said the plans would be helpful in identifying costs. In addition, as part of the School Construction Grant program, the school would be required to be a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design silver project, and this would help determine how to maximize the necessary point totals to achieve the rating.

Patton said they had given the board a schedule that includes some schematic design prior to the referendum, and they felt it was time to move forward.

“If we wait until April to start this effort, I’m really worried there won’t be enough time to get that design effort done and be able to bid the project and start construction in the fall,” he said.

That could delay the projected occupancy date of Fall 2015.

The proposal approved by the board calls for Healy, Bender to defer some of the schematic design phase fees. They will do the work for a partial payment of $112,000, to be billed as the work progresses. The balance would be due after the referendum passes.

Patton said the schematic design would still be good if the referendum does not pass in April and the board would have to take it to the voters again at a later date.

The board also approved hiring First Midstate Finance as bonding agent. The company will assist with the referendum process but will not be paid unless the referendum passes.

The board heard an update on legislation Rep. Frank Mautino (D-Spring Valley) has introduced in Springfield that would allow the district to borrow the $32 million and to pay off the building during a period of 30 years. The bill passed the Illinois House on Dec. 5, but the Senate went home without voting. Superintendent Mike Struna said the Senate would vote when members come back for the lame duck session in January. After Gov. Pat Quinn signs the bill, the board will hold a special meeting to officially approve the wording for the referendum question that will go on the ballot.

The board also heard from school district attorney David Zafiratos as to what they could do regarding the referendum.

Zafiratos said the general rule is the use of public funds in support of the referendum is prohibited.

The referendum committee won’t be meeting at the school anymore. Zafiratos said continuing to meet at the school probably would not have been a legal problem, but it could be a question of strategy and public perception.

“Does it help to have the meetings elsewhere?” he said. “Does it help to have the meetings spearheaded by someone who is not from among the board of education?”

The board can’t spend district money to create pamphlets in favor of the referendum, but the district is allowed to provide facts regarding the issue.

Zafiratos also said it would be legal for the referendum group to conduct tours through the building to show the need for a new building, but the district would also have to make the building available for any group that wanted to show the building was adequate.

Board member Mike Morris asked if board members can legally make contributions for the referendum, and Zafiratos said yes.

“You’re still residents; you’re still taxpayers; and you’re still able to have an opinion,” he said.

Comment on this story at www.bcrnews.com.

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