Urbana school district spends $670,000 to get facilities ready

URBANA – The summer will go down in Ota Dossett's books as the season floor tiles randomly released.

And they weren't the only unexpected issues Dossett, Urbana schools' facilities director, and his employees encountered during their summer sweep getting all district schools cleaned, repaired and ready for the new school year, at a cost of about $670,000 – about $70,000 more than planned.

Dossett said surprises nearly wiped out his contingency fund for the year.

Among those surprises: a moved cabinet that revealed a moldy wall at Urbana High School; a computer problem at Urbana Middle School that created wet carpet at one end of the building; a sink hole on the King School grounds.

Dossett said the tile problems were the most persistent. At King School, an entire hall of tile suddenly came loose, creating an unplanned removal and retiling job that cost about $9,000. That happened again at Thomas Paine School, adding another $9,000 to the district's repair bill.

But Dossett said the Paine problem could have been much more costly than it was because the contractor used a new heat thermal system to melt the asbestos tiles, a new process that doesn't cost nearly as much as asbestos abatement.

The tile trouble continued at Paine. Employees of Urbana's Environmental Solutions and Services, the district's contract cleaners, were working on a back hall, where there was a fire in 2000, when they noticed the tile was loose around the edges.

"That's a trip hazard," Dossett said. "Something was wrong there."

But he said Environmental Solutions took charge, and company insurance paid for a new floor.

Dossett's summer roster of floor projects also included replacement carpeting in a hall at Washington School, fixing slightly damaged decorative tile in the Leal School entry, recarpeting at Yankee Ridge, restoring gym floors at Urbana High School and Urbana Middle School, refinishing gym floors at all elementary schools and cleaning floors everywhere.

He said the middle school computer glitch caused the biggest headache.

"We had a thunderstorm in July and the power went out," Dossett said. "That took out the computer system at the middle school, the energy management systems, and the system at the south end didn't come back on, would not operate."

For an entire week, the air conditioning in that area didn't operate. "And it's worse than that because when the air's not on, the system goes into winter mode and brings in outside air," Dossett said. "It was humid, the carpet got wet and it was a mess."

Finally, a computer expert from the company that installed the system came in from Bloomington, replaced the malfunctioning part and employees cleaned up the area.

"There was nothing we could do because it wasn't in our control," Dossett said. "We had to wait for people to come to solve the problem."

Roof work at the high school, Yankee Ridge, King, Prairie, Wiley and Washington schools was the biggest part of the bill for summer work, $527,654 for all the work and $356,950 for work at Wiley, which now has a new roof.

Dossett also finally got rid of something that's been bothering administrators, school board members and neighbors – portable classrooms parked behind King School. Dossett tried to sell them but couldn't. He tried to give them away but no one wanted to pay for moving them so finally, crews demolished the unsightly trailers.

"Our building looks great!" said Jennifer Ivory-Tatum, King's new principal. "The portables are gone. They've asphalted our playground. They've tiled our floors. We're all ready for a great new year."

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