LOCS assistant superintendent confirms tentative order-of-priority for bond projects

Plans are currently $3 million over budget due to COVID-19 pandemic
By Joseph Goral
Staff Writer
LAKE ORION —  Lake Orion Community Schools (LOCS) Assistant Superintendent Heidi Mercer provided a tentative order-of-priority for the district’s bond projects to the Board of Education during a meeting on May 22.
The board told Mercer, assistant superintendent of teaching and learning, that they are comfortable with the priority, but several members said they are only comfortable due to the district’s current financial circumstances. There are currently no cost estimates for the projects, according to Mercer.
“[The committee is recommending] to start with the auxiliary gym at the high school,” Mercer said. “The committee is recommending that we build the gym slightly bigger to one day accommodate bleachers. Currently, the bleachers and the size of the aux gym in the bond would not accommodate the bleachers.”
Plans Mercer showed the board during a workshop meeting included two restrooms and storage spaces at one end of the gym. This gym would replace an existing gym that will be demolished.
The committee recommends keeping those plans, but bidding it as an alternate. Mercer said this means that when cost estimates come back to the board, the board could see the restrooms and storage areas price and make a decision on building the spaces then.
If the board decides to wait, the restrooms and storage spaces would be built as an addition to the gym at a later date.
“The next priority would be the team rooms,” Mercer said.
The committee studied the space again on May 22, and considered different designs to reduce the footprints of the rooms — which are currently 500 to 1,000 square feet over the bond scope, according to Mercer. This additional square footage includes “space for officials or the trainer, which we really feel is greatly needed,” according to Mercer.
Mercer also said that plans for a road leading to one of the team rooms discussed at a previous meeting currently keep the road “very basic.”
The project of the lowest priority is currently Learning Options remodeling. Mercer said the committee is recommending updating only what the bond calls for and avoiding remodeling areas that would need to be redone in the future. The same was said about anything that could not be kept with the district’s full master plan.
“If you recall at the board workshop, we showed where in the bond it’s a remodel,” Mercer told the board.
With the master plan, Mercer said “We really would like to move the office and really kind of make it their own space like what we’ve done with other buildings.”
Once the cost estimates are available, Mercer said the board and committee can look at what is needed when it comes to a concession stand and restrooms that would be added at the home side of the stadium.
Mercer also said a STEM space was included in the bond, but the committee ultimately decided to recommend that the board waits on the STEM space and instead includes it in the next potential new bond.
The district is still $3 million over budget due to impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is why the order of priorities was created, according to Mercer. With this, Mercer said the board can take what is left in the bond, and then bring back the estimates to see how much progress can be made with this prioritization.
The committee estimates that the aux gym and team rooms could be completed with the bond’s current funds, but are unsure how much more progress could be made beyond that.
“That’s where I think the conversation of the next bond comes into play,” Mercer said. “Because depending upon what year we would go for that, we might be ending this bond at the same time that another one is coming on very shortly thereafter, if the board were to decide that.
Both Trustee Scott Taylor and Treasurer Jake Singer said they rather place the team rooms as the lowest priority among the projects. However, there is not enough money for this priority.
Taylor said after the aux gym, second priority “has to be the CERC (Community Education Resource Center.)”
“Because to build the team rooms, that’s cool and that’s great, but we still have a space for kids that isn’t quite done,” Taylor said.
However, even if Learning Options was placed at the top of the committee’s priority, Mercer said there still would not be enough money to complete everything.
“When we’re talking about going for another bond, it’s not because, ‘man, we screwed up and we needed a lot more [money] than we thought,’” Taylor said. “We’re doing exactly what we said we were going to do, it just costs twice as much now.”
“I’m comfortable with this as it stands, and coming back with more information later,” said board Vice President Heather Sinawi.
The intent for the new team rooms is for football, soccer, lacrosse, track and other athletic programs to use the space, according to board President Danielle Bresett.
  LOCS has around $22 million for the projects, which is not enough to finish them, according to Andrea Curtis, assistant superintendent of business and finance.

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