Warm, Safe and Dry

You may recall the Warm, Safe and Dry campaign from the beginning of September this academic year. Images of decaying boilers and roofs in disrepair gave a visual reminder of the work that needs to be done for the buildings we send our children off to each morning. These building are in need of repair, and the Board of Education for the Grand Rapids Public Schools put the call out to the community to pass a millage for funds necessary to take care of the building issues and keep them “warm, safe, and dry” for our students.

On November 8, 2011, the voters of Grand Rapids agreed to meet the needs of our students by taking care of the infrastructure issues facing targeted schools within the district. The result was a five-year sinking fund that will generate $4 million passed with the first round of funds becoming available after this summer’s tax levy. A sinking fund is a fund established by a government agency or business for the purpose of reducing debt by repaying or purchasing outstanding loans and securities held against the entity. It helps keep the borrower liquid so it can repay the bondholder.

With summer on the horizon, the GRPS Board of Education placed the progress of the Warm, Safe and Dry Project on the agenda for the Feb. 6, 2012 meeting. While not discussed in detail during the meeting, Ken Klomparens, along with other members of the Facilities Department, have identified some of the major issues that should be addressed first as funds and time become available. “We try to look at the many factors when determining our priority list," says Klomparens.  

He went on to point out that there are several key components identified when assessing the needs and scheduling their repair accordingly. For instance, the timing of funds is an obvious factor when determining what shall be handled at what time. Another key component is the location of repairs, and how these repairs will affect the surrounding area if the building is in use at the time of maintenance.

It is for reasons such as these that the project list must go through a process of approval before being implemented. First, there must be a recommendation from the facilities department to the board. At the Feb. 6 Board of Education (BOE) meeting, a project list was brought before the board by Klomparens and Julie Davis. The second step is to then have the criteria for contracting this work out presented to the BOE. “All the work done must be contracted out; it is a state requirement of a sinking fund," informs Klomparens.

Finally, the interpretation of the issues that may arise must be addressed before the project can commence.   

One must keep in mind that this list identified for the Warm, Safe and Dry project is not the ongoing comprehensive list that is done annually by the Facilities Department. This is a concentrated list of projects of the most major needs that should be addressed within the scope of the five years allotted. The comprehensive list can be found by contacting the Facilities Department for the district.

One of the projects that has been identified to begin within the first two years is masonry repair for several schools including Central, West Leonard and Congress. The mortar is beginning to deteriorate in these 90-100 year-old buildings. Other projects identified include roof repairs, fire alarm replacement, electrical work and a heat control system update. Not only will these projects make the schools warmer, safer, or better lit depending on their needs, they will also benefit the bottom line in terms of operating costs. With better efficiency and greater regulatory control in schools like Creston that have been identified as having heating control issues, these updates mean greater control of the efficiency budget.  

Klomparens puts it nicely when he says that the work he and his department do for the district is a service to make the environment at GRPS conducive to getting the job done. “If the building is uncomfortable, it will inhibit the students' ability to learn.”

GRPS doesn’t want that and neither does the community that supports the district by sending their children to be educated there, as well as their dollars to keep the schools warm, safe and dry.

For more information about the Warm, Safe and Dry project and its progress as it unfolds, get plugged in to the GRPS Board of Education meetings and visit grpublicschools.org for more information.
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