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Village Schools

Facilities Committee discusses maintenance plans

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On Thursday, Oct. 6, the YS Schools Facilities Committee met to hear a presentation from Michael Murdock, owner and vice president of Motz Engineering, a firm hired by the district earlier this year to serve as its maintenance plan advisor, or MPA.

The Facilities Committee formed earlier this year to consider the costs of a phased, permanent-improvement plan to upgrade the district’s buildings compared with building all-new facilities. The committee identified the need for an MPA to advise on repair and maintenance strategies for the schools early in its planning process.

The MPA’s presentation follows a September report from architect Mike Ruetschle, who presented first drafts of possible renovation plans for Mills Lawn, McKinney Middle and YS High schools.

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The architect and MPA are working in tandem to deliver a full set of recommendations to the committee — a process that is expected to take several more months before final findings are delivered to the Board of Education for review.

Murdock’s presentation included the firm’s first draft assessments of the schools’ fire safety/alarm, mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems with an eye toward where replacements or upgrades are needed over the next two to 10 years, as well as long-term maintenance needs. Assessments of security, accessibility, Information Technology (IT) upgrades, furnishings, finishes and the building’s facade and roof, as well as an overall maintenance assessment, are forthcoming from the firm.

The assessment noted that no fire protection exists on either campus, which Murdock said is not currently required for the schools, but would be if renovations like the ones outlined in architect Ruetschle’s September draft presentation are undertaken. The addition of fire protection would include a sprinkler system, requiring a new water tap and possibly a fire pump.

Murdock added that the water service systems, which supply potable water to the schools, should be replaced within five years at the middle and high schools and 10 years at Mills Lawn.

“You could probably go another 20, but when it fails … you’re out of business, and you’re going to pay a lot of money to replace it in an emergency situation,” he said.

The sanitary and stormwater systems at both campuses, he said, appear to be cast iron, which he described as long-lasting, but he was unable to assess their current condition, and suggested that the district contract with a plumbing company to inspect those systems with a camera. He suggested that the schools decide on a standard, low-flush toilet model with which to update its bathrooms, and also recommended that the schools consider creating at least one separate, accessible toilet in each school in order to meet current accessibility standards.

Dorothée Bouquet, who is a school board liaison to the committee, commented that she would like to see future revisions of Motz Engineering’s assessments take account of water utility costs for the district when making recommendations on maintenance plans and upgrades.

“In this community, water costs twice as much as anywhere else,” she said.

“So does your electricity,” Murdock replied, and later suggested that the schools consider electrical efficiency in future upgrades and maintenance.

“Your electric bill could be significantly reduced if you used a high-efficiency [gas] water heater,” he said. “They’re not cheap, but they last a long time and … they’re by far the least costly way to heat water.”

Murdock spent a good portion of the presentation discussing the schools’ heating and air conditioning systems — an area that has been repeatedly identified by faculty and committee members as a high priority for upgrades. He suggested that the extant boilers at both campuses — which he called “really inefficient” — be replaced with sealed combustion boilers in the next five years, which he projected would provide an energy savings of 30% to 40%.

Murdock further pointed out the necessity of replacing the schools’ ventilators, which he suggested could be replaced with units that provide air conditioning and heati from cooled or heated water in a two-pipe system as part of a renovation. The window air conditioning units used at Mills Lawn, he said, should be replaced.

“I don’t think they’re doing much — but they are using a lot of electricity,” he said.

The existing radiant cabinet heaters, he added, can be retrofitted with fans and baseboard heaters raised to increase efficiency at both campuses.

Concerning the McKinney Middle School and YS High School gym, which is not air-conditioned, Murdock highlighted the air handlers, which circulate air in the building. The air handlers, he said, are “ancient,” and he recommended that the schools plan to replace them as early as summer 2024 to avoid a possible failure; he added a suggestion that they be replaced in conjunction with the addition of an air conditioning system for the gym. Rooftop HVAC units at both campuses were recommended for replacement within two to three years.

The presentation also included a recommendation that all electrical panels older than 20 years be upgraded at both campuses.

Murdock suggested that some of the upgrades he suggested, such as the air handlers, should wait until the district decides on whether or not renovations like the ones outlined in Ruetschle’s September presentation are feasible, as they should ideally be undertaken at the same time as a renovation, he said.

Bouquet asked how Murdock would deliver a recommendation on whether or not the school should go with phased improvements or a renovation.

“My assumption is that within five years, you will do a complete renovation,” he said.

Murdock’s presentation included an extensive spreadsheet breaking down the maintenance and repair costs of current plumbing, electrical, fire and mechanical equipment at the schools, as well as estimates on what it would cost to upgrade the equipment.

Projected routine annual maintenance costs for current equipment was reported as $42,169 at Mills Lawn and $67,606 at the middle and high schools. Three-year major repair estimates were $103,252 for Mills Lawn and $150,784 at the middle and high schools.

Estimated costs included on the spreadsheet for upgrading equipment nearing or at the end of its life totaled $869,120 for Mills Lawn and $1,471,450 for McKinney Middle and YS High schools.

These figures, Murdock said, are not complete and don’t include assessments still to be made for security, accessibility, IT upgrades, furnishings, finishes and the building’s facade and roof.

Murdock added that, in addition to delivering first drafts of assessments and recommendations on these systems, he will deliver “at least two revisions” of all reports.

Following the presentation, committee member and Mills Lawn teacher Kineta Sanford asked Murdock about the possibility of a side-by-side comparison between the cost of renovating the buildings and constructing all-new facilities. Murdock replied that he can supply a square footage estimate for a new building when current assessments are finished.

Ruetschle also asked for feedback from district employees on the draft plans he presented in September in order to develop a budget for the proposed renovations. Sanford and McKinney and YS High School Principal Jack Hatert agreed to collect feedback from faculty and staff at both campuses.

Before the close of the meeting, McKinney and YS High School theater and choir teacher Lorrie Sparrow-Knapp spoke for an impassioned 15 minutes, citing the need for performance spaces for the theater and music programs in the schools. While Ruetschle’s September draft plans included all-new educational spaces for art, music and theater classes, they did not include an updated or new performance space for the district.

“Our educational art spaces in this district are woefully inadequate,” Sparrow-Knapp said. “It is unacceptable for this amazing community known for arts excellence to not have an adequate space for theater and music as part of their educational campus.”

The next meeting of the Facilities Committee will be Thursday, Nov. 3, in the Graham Conference Room at Mills Lawn.

To watch the full Oct. 6 Facilities Committee meeting, go to To view Motz Engineering’s full draft report, go to, click on “Meetings” at the top right and click on the Oct. 6 meeting to navigate through the meeting’s agenda, which includes the documents.

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