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District Living Up to Bond Project Promises and Ballot Language

Despite the challenges posed by the pandemic, the design and physical work funded by 2019’s $218 million bond has continued without major interruption.

And the money approved by taxpayers is being allocated exactly as Pueblo School District 60 leadership pledged it would be, according to a volunteer group formed to oversee the spending of those funds and monitor project progress in the name of transparency.

After receiving an update on the state of repair and replacement projects from Bob Lawson, the district’s executive director of facilities and construction management during a virtual meeting, the D60 Citizens Bond Advisory Committee concurred that a review of relevant information and documents revealed that bond funds are being spent in the manner taxpayers were promised they would be.

To gauge the committee’s viewpoint on the matter, Committee Chair Ken Lane posed the following question: “What is your opinion as to whether the bond revenue expenditures in 2020 are consistent with the purposes and mandates of the voter-approved 2019 bond, and otherwise consistent with District 60’s list of planned facilities capital repairs and replacements, as outlined to the public and this committee?”

Chair Lane was the first to answer.

“I haven’t seen anything in my review of information provided by the district that makes me believe the district made expenditures that are inconsistent with the voter-approved bond and the district list of capital repairs and replacements provided to the public and this committee.”

That affirmative assessment was echoed by the quorum of committee members present for the meeting.

“Great! I think we have a consensus,” Chair Lane said. “And that will be duly and positively reported to the (school) board on January 14.”

To Mr. Lawson and David Horner, the district’s chief financial officer, Chair Lane added, “I think you guys have done a good job this past year.”

Aerial shot of the demolition of Heroes K-8 Academy In his report on the status of bond-funded projects, Mr. Lawson noted the demolition of the Heroes K-8 Academy (formerly Freed Middle School) is nearly completion. 

“The building is down and the last of the foundation is being removed,” he told the committee. “They plan to do final grading and reseeding this month, and we are expecting a project closeout in January.”

Although $2.4 million was budgeted for the demolition project, the actual cost was $1.9 million. The entirety of the work was handled by Pueblo County companies.

At a cost of $426,500, the replacement of the electrical system at Minnequa Elementary School continues to progress, with about 30 percent of the work done. It’s anticipated that the project will be completed in June.

Minnequa also is to receive perimeter LED lighting upgrades.

The electrical system at Highland Park Elementary also is being replaced, with that $434,000 project also expected to wrap up in June.

Pueblo Electrics is the contractor for both projects.

Replacement of the roof at Highland Park is expected to begin in the Spring so as not to disrupt classes. Site walkways on the campus have been resurfaced, and as the project came in well under budget, the excess funds may be used to improve the surface of the school’s playground.

Also planned for Highland Park are fencing repairs, with $104,000 budgeted for that work.

At Heaton Middle School, an engineering study of the school’s foundation has been completed. Mr. Lawson told the committee that if funds are available in Year Three of the bond, hydraulic lifting of the building may be undertaken to address foundation deficiencies.

Marking its 60th anniversary, Pueblo Academy of Arts is soon to receive a new HVAC system that will bring air conditioning to the school for the first time.

With the locally based Industrial Plumbing and Heating handling the work, the $6.9 million project is set to get underway in March upon the arrival of ordered equipment.

PAA’s electrical system also is to be replaced, at a budgeted cost of $1.4 million, with a request for proposals closing this week.

At Central High School, the sanitary sewer will be replaced, at a budgeted cost of $1.8 million, with the brunt of the work to take place in the summer. Also slated for replacement are the roof drain and gym roof drain.

Like PAA, South High School is receiving a new HVAC system and with it, air conditioning for the first time.

That $7.9 million project will be handled by Industrial Plumbing and Heating, with the work to coincide with the PAA HVAC replacement.

The cornerstone of the 2019 bond is the construction of new buildings to replace Centennial and East high schools. Design renderings of the interior of the new high schools

The architectural design of Centennial by HGF Architects and MOA Architecture, at a cost of $2.8 million, is progressing nicely, with 50 percent of the construction documents complete.

“The Guaranteed Maximum Price set of drawings and specifications have been turned over to the contractor, so they will start the bidding and pricing process to deliberate a Guaranteed Maximum Price for the district in February,” Mr. Lawson explained. “We’re still looking at an initial groundbreaking ceremony in March.”

The progress for the new East High School mirrors that of the Centennial project, with H.W. Houston Construction named the contractor for both projects. 

Districtwide, new HVAC controls are to be installed, at a cost of $1.9 million. The work, Mr. Lawson said, will be undertaken in evenings and on weekends starting in a few weeks.

Once all the controls are in place, a controlling server will be installed.

Hazardous material abatement, budgeted at just over $1 million, was completed for $12,000, resulting in significant cost savings. The work took place at Highland Park Elementary, South Park Elementary, and Central High School in connection with door hardware replacement work. 

The replacement of door hardware, Mr. Lawson said, is “moving along well. We have some schools that are now completed: Beulah Heights is finished and South Park is very close to being finished, with South High School about 80 percent done.”

The door hardware replacement work, budgeted at nearly $1.8 million, is being done at Beulah Heights, South Park, Highland Park, Minnequa, Belmont, Heaton, Highland Park, PAA and Central High. The project is expected to be completed by Spring.

In 2020, D60 became the first district in Southern Colorado to ever be awarded two Building Excellent Schools Today (BEST) grants, which will be used to replace the aging Sunset Park and Franklin School of Innovation.

As those two schools were to receive bond funds for renovation work, that money will be applied to the new construction work: essentially allowing the district to parlay $30 million in BEST grants to build two new schools.

Architectural designers (RTA Architects/MOA Architecture) and the contractor (Nunn Construction) have been selected for the pair of projects, with initial geotesting to begin this week.

Also slated to get underway shortly are stakeholder design committee meetings, which are expected to produce input as to the look and features of the new schools.

Chair Lane said the use of BEST grants to complement bond funds is consistent with the purpose of the bond and the district’s application of funds. He said the awarding of a pair of BEST grants to a district in the same year, which is rare, “is a testament that the state realized District 60 was serious when it went after this historic bond, and the size of this bond: you guys meant business down here in Pueblo, and it’s a testament to this community.”

Mr. Horner, who along with Mr. Lawson serves on the committee in an advisory capacity, said, “The support of the community to pass it really helped a lot in getting the BEST grants.”

In addition to Chair Lane, the CBAC is made up Vice Chair Matt Trujillo, and members Brittany Campbell, Deborah Stephens, Mike Donnell, Todd Mihelich, Aaron Suazo, Gary Trujillo and Leslie Shephard.