District finalizing schedule for referendum projects

Miriam Nelson

The Wittenberg-Birnamwood School Board is finalizing plans for the $13.1 million in improvements approved by school district residents in November.

The largest constructions projects included in the referendum are additions at the Wittenberg and Birnamwood elementary-middle schools and a new building, primarily for agriculture classrooms, next to Wittenberg-Birnamwood High School.

The school board met on Dec. 20 with project architect Jody Andres and project manager Matt McGregor, of Appleton-based Hoffman Planning, Design and Construction Inc., and Lisa Voisin, managing director of Baird Public Finance, on Dec. 20 to discuss the timeline and financing options for the project.

The school board hired Hoffman Planning, Design and Construction Inc. in 2015 to work on the project. It will receive approximately $700,000 in design fees and $340,000 in construction management fees.

“I’m excited to be here, excited about the project,” McGregor said. “Our overall goal is to cover this in two summers and the school year of 2019-2020.”

Designs for the additions and the large renovations at the high school have yet to be finalized, but the tentative plan is to break ground the latter part of this summer. The school board will begin the bid process on ancillary work and equipment as soon as the project schedule is finalized.

One of the first steps will be to create secured entrances for all three district schools, McGregor said. Other maintenance work expected at the high school later this year will address roof and exterior door issues.

The largest project at the high school will be installing a new heating, ventilation and air conditioning system. Engineers have not yet determined whether it can be finished in one summer.

The elementary/middle school additions and the ag building are expected to be completed in summer 2020. Work will continue throughout the year and during summer school.

“We will be working with teachers and staff to make sure summer school is not impacted negatively,” Superintendent Garrett Rogowski said. “We will also need to determine what work can be done around the teachers and students during the school year.”

Andres said that “there is a ton of work that needs to happen in the summer of 2020.” He said the company might need to work with the shop teachers to free up the space to work there.

“A few extra weeks to work in those areas will greatly benefit the time,” he said.

Voison said her priorities include staying within budget and determining when to borrow the money needed for the projects. She told the board that interest rates in December were averaging 3-4 percent, compared to 7-8 percent 10 years ago.

“Interest rates have dropped, but there is a lot of volatility,” she said. “There’s talk about a recession, which would work out to our favor as people are more willing to invest in municipal bonds.”