The School of the Osage Board of Education voted unanimously Monday night to pursue replacing the overcrowded Mills Elementary School by possibly rehabilitating the Heritage Building, the former junior high facility.
It wasn’t a strong endorsement of the project as board member Rocky Miller offered a motion to move forward with plans to replace Mills with an “emphasis” on rehabbing the former junior high building.
That decision gives Ittner Architects from St. Louis enough direction to formulate more specific plan cost estimates.
“I think it’s wise to educate ourselves more, to do more research before we vote (to make a final decision),” board member Steven Hermann said.
Miller agreed with Hermann, saying the board needs more information before making a commitment.
A bond issue is being considered for April of 2013.
Discussion late last winter centered on a new building near the Middle School on Highway 42. The thought then was that all educational facilities could be in a central location, providing parents and students easier movement between schools. It has only been recently that the Heritage Building was considered as a possible location.
However, several factors moved the board to change its thought process. These included:
•Cost to rehab vs. new is estimated at $20 to $23 million for new, and $16 to $18 million for the Heritage Building.
•Not having a location in Lake Ozark, where the school has had a presence for many years, and where a large segment of the school's population is located.
•Having two empty buildings (old Mills Elementary and the Heritage Building) if a new facility is built on Highway 42.
•Potential traffic and student pickup issues on Highway 42.
•Long-time history of the Heritage Building.
“The Strategic Planning Committee has don’t its job,” Miller noted. It’s in our court now to decide the next step.”
An informal poll of the Strategic Planning Committee members showed overwhelming support for renovating the Heritage Building, it was noted.
There are potential traffic pattern and parking problems associated with redoing the Heritage Building, though Ittner will take those into consideration when they complete a more detailed plan. A spokesman for the architect said the interior of the building would be entirely new. A design and cost estimate will be drafted for the Heritage Building with a 20 percent contingency fund built in for unanticipated expenses.
Forming a bond issue committee to lead the project was discussed, and board members were asked to provide the names of three people who could chair the effort.
“It’s hard to justify the cost of a new building, especially in the economic times we have now. Taxes already are an issue,” commented board member Mary Whitman.
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