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LT approves $21 million in bonds for renovations

Published: Tuesday, Aug. 20, 2013 12:24 p.m. CDT

LA GRANGE – The Lyons Township High School 204 Board of Education approved a resolution Monday to issue $21 million in bonds for a number of renovation projects at both high school campuses.

Highlights include a $3.7 million project to replace and relocate a school bus-sized air conditioning unit at the Reber Center; $5.3 million to redo the North Campus cafeteria by relocating the kitchen and increasing seating and lighting; $1.275 million to renovate six science labs at South Campus; and a to-be-determined amount for a reconfiguration of the entrance at South Campus intended to increase security by making visitors enter through a holding area.

The $21 million mark is a not-to-exceed figure, but the district will likely try to limit spending to $19.6 million.

“That is the target number that will allow us to maintain our Triple-A rating, which is very important to this board of education,” Board President Mark Pera said.

The bonds will be applied over a 10-year period and allow school districts to issue long-term debts without going through a referendum. Costs for specific projects are projected and won’t be fully known until DLA Architects casts bids in December and January. The time will allow the district to draw the most favorable bids.

Because the district is rolling over bonds that already exist, the renovations will not result in a tax increase to residents, Pera said. He asked the public to consider the task of maintaining both of the school’s campuses when evaluating the expensive project.

“The infrastructure demands of an aging building at South [Campus] and a very old building at North [Campus] are enormous,” Pera said. “And it costs millions of dollars to keep these facilities in the condition that the public would expect them to be in for the educational benefit of their children.”

The Reber Center project drew the most discussion and analysis, with the Board eventually deciding to spend more and replace an air conditioning unit that produces a rattling noise performance groups say hurts the presentation of their shows. The Board heard two presentations by an acoustician, who measured the noise level in the center at 37 decibels. The standard for a high school performance arts center is 25.

Renovations will replace the existing unit with four smaller pieces of equipment, said Dwain Lutzow from DLA Architects. The Board demanded assurance from Lutzow that renovations will lower the center’s noise level to the standard 25 decibels, but given the center’s age, that could involve a higher-than-projected cost.

The Board said it would commit the necessary money to renovate the Reber Center, even if costs come in higher than estimated. That would inevitably nix other projects, chiefly the $1.6 million installation of artificial turf on the middle field at West Field. The Board is already hesitant to go ahead with the project because a sizable chunk of its cost would go toward replacing an underground water pipe that belongs to the village of La Grange.

Other renovation projects include new tennis courts at South Campus, maintenance of several air handling units and a strengthened network bandwidth that will increase Internet speeds 10-fold.

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