Menomonee Falls School Board prioritizing facilities needs

Ben Franklin has mold; Shady Lane needs roof

Feb. 25, 2014

Menomonee Falls — As a possible facilities-related referendum looms in the future, Menomonee Falls school officials are turning their immediate attention toward pressing needs in the district's six primary buildings.

A number of — including summer capital projects and outdoor facilities planning — were discussed last week at a School Board work session.

During the summer hiatus, plans call for the bulk of the district's attention to go toward Ben Franklin Elementary School. A number of projects are on the list, including lighting and ceiling tile upgrades, redoing the parking lot, replacing the gymnasium floor, addressing mold in the school's basement and tackling any related asbestos cleanup.

Another possible project on the high priority-list is the roof at Shady Lane Elementary School. Jeffrey Gross, director of business services, said the true importance of this line item will be known upon winter's completion as professionals assess its condition.

The question of how much work will be addressed this summer was debated between board members. Cost estimates range between $1.12 million and $1.34 million. Depending upon the extent of the work, the district could dip into reserve money in the fund balance.

Using reserves questioned

Several board members expressed interest in having an itemized priority list on the more immediate capital expense items. The merits of dipping into reserve money also were reviewed extensively.

"I think the board needs to have a discussion about what our priority is with fund balance," board President Faith VanderHorst said. "When you take into account our credit rating, and how it's tied to the fund balance, I'm a little nervous. The community values how we spend our money."

From his professional standpoint, Gross said he believed using fund balance could be helpful to see some of the projects through.

"This is something for the board to chew on," he said. "You protect your fund balance for these kinds of capitol items."

For her part, VanderHorst said she wanted some of the most pressing items addressed.

"If there is mold, we need to clean it up," she said. "It there's a leak in the roof, that has to be taken care of."

Depending upon the board's decision, work at Ben Franklin could be spread out over two summers. If the district does tackle all of the work this year, Ben Franklin's summer school classes likely would be transferred to Riverside and Shady Lane elementary schools.

Softball field needs deeper fences

The board also discussed plans for the new softball field and accompanying outfield fences at Menomonee Falls High School.

The school's current outfield fencing does not meet recently enacted regulations put in place by the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association, or WIAA. If the district does not install new regulatory fencing this year, the high school's home games will need to be held at a different field.

A firm decision on the future of the softball field has not yet been made, although district officials continue to eye the necessary regulatory enhancements.

Throughout the planning process, funding the project has largely been donor-driven. The Menomonee Falls Optimist Club could donate some of the funding toward the project, which also entails installing new turf and potentially adding restrooms. A decision on the Optimist Club's level participation could be handed down next month.

Further discussion and ultimate action on some of the board's facility issues will take place at upcoming regular board and special facilities-specific meetings.

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