July 18, 2012 - Brandon Twp.- The school district has about $500,000 left over from a $73 million bond that voters passed in 2006, but will soon use more than a quarter of that money, $136,300, to replace a bridge on school property.
The remaining funds will likely be earmarked to be used toward replacement of the pool roof, a job that is currently estimated to set the district back at least $1 million.
The board approved the bridge project, at a total cost of $136,300, by a 6-1 vote during their July 16 meeting. Board President Kevin McClellan voted no.
Superintendent Lorrie McMahon called the bridge "essential" to the district.
"The kids use it, so we want them safe and it keeps them on a direct path from home to school and vice-versa," she said. "Without the bridge, it would extend the student's walk by about a mile and would add to transportation costs—some kids in the village would need busing."
The bridge, located just off South Street in the village of Ortonville, crosses Kearsley Creek and leads to the rear property of Harvey Swanson Elementary and the H.T. Burt Lifelong Learning Center, located on Varsity Drive. The bridge was built nearly 60 years ago at the behest of parents in the village who wanted a more direct route for their students, said Arden Becker, executive director of operations, aquatic center and food services.
"Initially there was no access (to the complex) except for Varsity Drive," he said. "After many complaints, the bridge was built in 1953. I'm sure there would be similar complaints nowadays if kids had to be around all that extra traffic."
Construction of the original bridge was funded 100 percent by the school district and because the bridge is entirely on school property, its replacement will also be completely funded by the district. The replacement of the bridge is necessary due to its severe deterioration, believed to have been accelerated by heavy rains this past spring. Becker called it a "huge safety factor" and the bridge has been blocked off, deemed unfit for use.
Becker received six bids for replacement and was very pleased with the competitiveness of the bids. Art Thureson, Inc. of Waterford will manufacture and deliver the bridge to the proper location for $15,950. Anlaan Corp. of Ferrysburg, Mich. will remove the existing bridge, do all groundwork and place the new bridge at a cost of $120,350.
Former Harvey Swanson Principal Helen Clemetsen and Brandon Fletcher Intermediate School Principal Jeff Beane told McMahon that hundreds of children use the bridge regularly during the school year.
McClellan and other board members voiced concerns about using so much of leftover bond money for the bridge with pool roof repairs looming.
Not only does the 20-year-old roof at the Brandon Aquatic and Fitness Center need to be replaced, but the center's ventilation system, which caused the roof to deteriorate from the inside out, also needs to be replaced to avoid future problems.
Becker received an estimate of $1 million for the entire project, both roof and ventilation system.
"We can't do one without the other," he noted. "The roofing consultant advises replacement of the roof and did not indicate when it was going to blow off, but advised replacement. Once a funding source is figured out, I'd like to proceed with replacement— I would hope within the next two years."
Becker is researching solar panel solutions for the pool roof, a plan he says would vastly improve the district's energy costs and save money in the long run. A new roof must be designed to withstand the weight of the panels and typical snows for this area. He noted that this would add to cost of the roof project, however.
The district has other concerns, too, Becker noted.
"The other issue on the backburner radar from the state is the wastewater treatment plant at Fletcher Intermediate School," he said.
The district has been plagued with septic issues and has borne increasing costs to keep up with DEQ requirements. The estimated price tag on a septic fix at BFIS is about $70,000, Becker said.
Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville