Northampton Press

Saturday, May 30, 2020

NASD looking forward to project

Thursday, March 13, 2014 by PAUL WILLISTEIN in Local News

"The cold never bothered me anyway," sings Idina Menzel in "Let It Go," the hit from the Oscar-winning animation blockbuster "Frozen."

When you're trying to keep the $80.7-million Northampton Area Middle School and Campus Renovation Project on schedule the cold bothers you a lot. The construction team is listening for the warm – and trying to generate some heat of its own.

"They're using some ground-thawing gear. You couldn't use it in zero-degree weather," said Christopher W. Haller, project engineer, D'Huy Engineering, Inc., of the construction site in Northampton Borough.

The first day of spring, March 20, can't come too soon for the campus project.

"The winter's been awful," said Jay Clough, principal, KCBA, project architect, during the middle school project update at the March 10 NASD school board meeting. "We could use some good weather."

The school board voted 9-0 Monday night to approve the issuance of General Obligation Bonds, Series A & B of 2014, in the amount of $40.5 million to fund the middle school project. Board members also voted 9-0 to approve refunding Series 2006, 2007 and 2009 General Obligation Bonds in the amount of $7.5 million.

Jamie Doyle, PFM managing director, reiterated the reissue should save $142,000, based on a minimum 2 percent savings target. The bonds sale takes place March 24 or later, "depending on the market," Doyle said.

"It's a technique the school district has used successfully in the past," said Kevin C. Reid, chair, Public Finance Law Practice Group, King, Spry, Herman, Freund & Faul, of the refinancing.

"We're a shade behind, but they [construction crews] can move that up," NASD Superintendent Joseph Kovalchik told The Press after the school board meeting.

"We're starting to remobilize after the weather," Clough commented following the meeting.

"Summer [20]15 is the goal [for the school's completion]. We're going to hit that goal," Haller said after the meeting.

Work is resuming on the middle school's second story. Areas that will house the gymnasium and administration are being worked on. Bricklayers are on site.

"As weather improves, you're going to see two crews out there," Haller said.

Board member Jean Rundle asked about the status of new lights and poles for Al Erdosy Stadium, which is being renovated as part of the campus project. The six light standards at the stadium have been in use since 1969, said NASD Director of Operations Robert J. Yanders. Replacing six light poles with four light poles at each corner of the stadium is under consideration. Also, Light-Emitting Diode (LED) bulbs are likely.

While replacing the lights and poles is not included in the campus project budget, Kovalchik said the project contingency fund can cover the cost. Ground digging insurance for unexpected construction site challenges has mitigated the need to dip into the contingency fund.

"We have had some discussion," said Clough of replacing the stadium lights. "We never received board approval. There is money in the contingency budget."

School board Vice President Jennifer Miller urged the board to consider authorizing new lights before completion of the project.

"It would be wise to complete this now, not when the stadium is finished," Miller said.

"We will get competitive bids," Clough said. The school board is expected to make a decision on stadium lights and poles in June.

Meanwhile, Kovalchik said the school board's facilities committee is discussing design and content of middle school classrooms, the gymnasium and swimming pool, the field house and fitness room, as well as cabinetry, flooring and furniture, including student desks. Decisions on interior aspects of the middle school are expected to be made in April or May.

The three-story, 272,000-square-foot middle school, to accommodate 1,500 sixth through eighth-grade students is set to open fall 2015. The project includes the new Stadium Drive, field house, parking lots and school bus drop-off area and track and field at the stadium.