Renovation and expansion of the School of the Osage Heritage Building is beginning to take shape.

Renovation and expansion of the School of the Osage Heritage Building is beginning to take shape.

That was the message the board of education heard from Assistant Superintendent Tony Hermann and Gary Wells of S.M. Wilson & Company at Monday night's regular board meeting.

"We're still on schedule and we're still on budget," exclaimed Hermann, who is coordinating the project on behalf of the school with construction manager S.M. Wilson.

Drywall in many of the rooms is being placed, matching brick on the school building's exterior has been added, a base layer of asphalt has been laid in the parking lot, playground equipment is being designed, concrete floors are being poured and construction on the roof is underway.

Hermann said S.M. Wilson is confident the building will be enclosed before cold weather sets in.

Topsoil for the parking islands and other landscaped areas has been placed and some seeding has been completed. Wells said the fall grass will help keep the topsoil in place over the winter and will give the area a little color. Landscapers will do another seeding in the early spring.

One of the challenges ahead for the board, or a designated committee, is to decide what academic and sports artifacts should be displayed in the display cases. There are more items than space allows, so the board may appoint a committee to decide what is on public display and what is placed in storage; or if items should be rotated on a regular basis or placed on display permanently.

Change orders

Each month, the board is asked to consider and approve construction change orders. Some result in credits, and some require additional funds.

The contingency fund, which is used to cover the additional costs, is beginning to dwindle but should be enough to finish the project.

The Heritage Building project is the result of Osage School District voters approving a $22 million bond issue last April. Mills Elementary School has outlived its efficient usefulness and classes will be moved into the Heritage Building in time for the 2014-15 school year.

The board approved these change orders:

•Redesign of the central administrative office area

•Improve some drainage areas to help pull water away from the building

•Tied a sanitary sewer line into an existing city sewer system

•Repair and improve lightning protection

•Purchase door hardware so it matches and is interchangeable throughout the building

•Switch to PVC pipe in some outdoor areas instead of aluminum, which is susceptible to damage from bird droppings

•Cover or replace as many wood soffits as possible with metal to avoid future maintenance issues

Other business

•The board learned that the district's health escrow account continues to dwindle and has fallen to $168,000 as of Oct. 31. The account has been on a "downhill slide" for four years, Superintendent Brent Depeé noted, despite pumping several hundred thousand dollars into the account and making changes to the health insurance program.

•The board learned that the school district has saved about $80,000 in prescription costs since changing carriers. "We have a great (insurance) plan," he said. "But our premiums aren't matching our payout." He anticipates having to make other changes to the plan. "We have to be wiser consumers of our medical program, and we need to continue to educate our staff," he explained.

•The board heard the annual audit report from Lynn Graves of Graves and Associates CPAs of Jefferson City. He said the report found the school district to be in compliance with state and federal accounting standards and that the district has 7½ months of funds in reserve to cover emergencies. Graves said four months is recommended, and noted the district has had as much as 9½ months in reserve in recent years.

•The board learned that revenue growth in the last three years has been flat because assessed valuations have been flat.