AASD debates fate of B building

Board members split over demolishing, maintaining structure

Altoona Area School Board members on Monday examined the costs and details of repurposing the high school structure slated for demolition, with some still backing demolition and others voicing support for maintaining the building.

Maintaining the B building presented concerns about updating util­ities and other features, and ad­ded operational costs for both utilities and maintenance personnel.

Some of the concerns included re-establishing electrical services, adhering to more stormwater requirements, adding a new boiler plant, replacing the roof and covering extra operational costs for both utilities and maintenance personnel, according to a presentation by construction manager Damion Spahr and Superintendent Charles Prijatelj.

“Between electrical service and other utilities, the cost of these items will be greater than the savings from not demolishing the building,” Prijatelj said.

With just the boiler plant and roof added to the costs of keeping the building served with utilities, Prijatelj estimated it would cost $4 million to $6 million extra depending on if a field is built.

If the city requires upgrades, such as plumbing repairs, piping replacement, handicap-accessible features and heating, ventilating and air conditioning upgrades, the total costs reportedly increase to between $8 million and $20 million, he added.

Spahr and Prijatelj estimated the operational costs of utilities and maintenance personnel would cost taxpayers an additional $1.5 million to $6.3 million over the next 20 years.

The budget for the new building project includes bids amounting $1,775,000 to demolish the B building and to replace the intramural field lost to the new building. The $1 million is allotted for constructing a new intramural field.

A district resident’s suggestion at a November meeting to consolidate multiple district services at the B building prompted board members to again look at the logistics of keeping the structure.

Programs that could be placed in the B building would be the tax office and adult education, district registration offices, special education, storage facility, central receiving operations and an alternative education program.

Keeping the building for those offices is a “little overkill,” Board President Dutch Brennan told the Mirror in an interview last month.

Board member Ron Johnston had previously expressed his support for consolidating multiple district services in the B building.

After hearing the presentation by Spahr and Prijatelj, he still voiced uneasiness about demolishing the building.

“This building will not come down easy,” Johnston said. “It’s a fallout shelter. That’s when your change orders are really going to start pouring in with the demo of this building.”

He talked about his house, built in 1954, that needed renovations and maintenance over the years. “I just didn’t want to build a new house. I just can’t see building a new building with this one here.”

Member Sharon Bream also shared her disapproval, commenting on how she was disappointed the building is being torn down.

“We’ve put a lot of money into this building over the years,” Bream said. “We have always maintained this building, and it’s OK for technology. … Of course I’m against this new building. I’m for keeping this building.”

When questioned about the chances of change orders, Spahr said there is always a possibility of change orders, but he thinks not to the extent that Johnston seemed concerned about.

COMMENTS