Safety at HNHS tops discussion list at HCCSC work session

Rob Young (left), vice president of business development for The Hagerman Group, speaks about how his construction firm would address the heating, ventilation and air conditioning needs at Huntington North High School during a special public work session of the Huntington County Community School Corporation Board of Trustees on Saturday, Jan. 18, in the Huntington North Library. The meeting was convened to discuss the facility issues at Huntington North, which range from a leaking roof to decaying wastewater infrastructure.
Rob Young (left), vice president of business development for The Hagerman Group, speaks about how his construction firm would address the heating, ventilation and air conditioning needs at Huntington North High School during a special public work session of the Huntington County Community School Corporation Board of Trustees on Saturday, Jan. 18, in the Huntington North Library. The meeting was convened to discuss the facility issues at Huntington North, which range from a leaking roof to decaying wastewater infrastructure. Photo by Steve Clark.

The safety of Huntington County Community School Corporation’s high school students was the forefront topic at a public work session held Saturday, Jan. 18, at Huntington North High School.

Superintendent Chad Daugherty reiterated that the building is 50 years old, and the meeting, attended by school board members, was the first on what to do to address the needs following the failed referendum during the past municipal election. He solicited solutions and suggestions from the public in attendance.

“None of us have the right answer. There’s no right or wrong answers,” Daugherty said, “but the wrong answer is to do nothing. This building has to be addressed, so that’s the process that we’re starting today.”

Despite the roar of comment and criticism of HCCSC that occurred prior to the November referendum vote, no one signed up to address the board or offer any solutions to the problem of student safety at the high school. That left Daugherty to make a presentation about the needs, with the hopes that the public might be prompted to respond afterward.

“We have $20 million from the project from Roanoke that is supposed to be spent on the campus at Huntington North High School,” he explained. “We have to address the safety and health of our students here at the high school. This is something that’s been talked about since 2006-2007.”

Daugherty outlined immediate needs as the roof, HVAC, plumbing and Kriegbaum Field, saying something has to be done for the four areas. The Huntington County Learning Center was also mentioned as a fifth – but not immediate – need that must be addressed.

Other needs on the high school campus include electrical, fire protection, classroom walls, the high school’s entrance, labs and tennis courts, Daugherty said.

The roof
Daugherty said the second roof, overbuilt in 1983, has internal gutters, drains and seams, many of which are now leaking – 23 leaks at last count.

“It will rain, then maybe two days later the water then will penetrate and come down into the building,” he said, adding it’s very hard to find where the leaks are occurring.

Possible solutions include an insurance claim for recent hail damage in the metal roof located in the academic area. Daugherty said a quote has not yet come back from the insurance company about the claim.

Another option would be a roof retrofit – that is, if the roof can support a rubber coating or membrane added to it. He said it would only have a 15-year life span, but it would be water-tight.

“But that is a band-aid approach; it’s not going to address the issues underneath,” Daugherty added, “but again, that’s a possible solution.”

HVAC needs
The original HVAC units from 1969, when the high school was built, no longer have parts available. The units struggle to keep up when it’s hot outside, Daugherty said, and temperatures are not constant. The air supply goes out through an open plenum system, picking up moisture from the roof leaks in the return air, he said.

Possible solutions include a “VAV” – or variable air volume – system, which Daugherty said would make for more efficient and consistent temperatures in the building and last for another 40 years. However, it may not address the open plenum issue.

“We’re in a position where we’re not sure how much it’s going to cost, because of the building, the age, and when you get into something, just like a local project that you do at home,” he said. “‘Well, I think the roof is fine, but then it has something that’s rotted underneath.’ So we have some of those issues currently right now that we don’t know what it’s going to cost with the roof.”

Plumbing issues
Underground, Daugherty said, the school’s sewer and drains are experiencing obstructions and water lines that have become “bellied” with water. Sewage has nearly backed up onto the basketball court on occasion, he explained, adding that cleanout areas have become blocked, leaving water standing in drains.

Asbestos is also wrapped around piping, and creosote on the rooftop has also caused plumbing problems.

Possible solutions include a “pipe lining process,” if it’s possible to do, Daugherty said. If the pipes are “bellied” it will not work. In that case, the school’s terrazzo flooring would need to be torn up to get to the affected pipes.

Kriegbaum Field
Daugherty described locker rooms and bleachers that are becoming more unsafe, in the second-oldest stadium in Indiana. Aging concrete bleacher steps, cracks in the foundation causing mold and a lack of ADA compliance are among health and safety concerns for students in what he called a “failing facility.”

What can be done
Rob Young, vice president of business development with The Hagerman Group construction firm, addressed whether the work could be performed during the school day. He said classrooms may need to relocate to another room while work is being done in that area.

“It would not be unusual to work on Huntington North High School during the school year,” he said. “What that takes, obviously, is a lot of planning and communication. … Make no mistake; it is somewhat disruptive. With that said, there are ways to minimize that disruption, primarily through scheduling the ‘heavy stuff’ on off-hours.”

Young also said the project could also become a learning opportunity for those students interested in the construction field.

Board member Brian Warpup noted that he looked at construction estimates from past decades and costs have nearly doubled. He warned costs could go up to more than $100 million down the road and threaten to go as high as $175 million.

“This isn’t something that’s just popped up, and suddenly we have roof leaks and everything,” he said. “We have been trying to address this for some time. Obviously, for the last 20 years it has been talked about, it has never been brought this far forward. So, with the $20 million that we have, we just don’t want to spend $20 million and it not fix everything. It won’t fix everything. And it might only fix it for 10 years. … When we’re talking that much money, it’s just not going to get cheaper in the long haul.”

Following the presentation and discussion by board members and representatives of the construction, architecture and other firms, three people had signed up to address the board with comments, but at least 13 more followed.

Brett Stephan asked if the corporation decides on a new build, could it be done in three phases since the new build plans are located in three separate areas.

“We have $20 million now. I’m not going to say that that’s going to pay for one of those three, and in a few years we’ll have another $20-plus million,” she said. “You could speak to how much and when more money will be available, if that could go toward one of those sections, and then past that we can see where we’re at, and the transparency and what the need is.”

Mike Keplinger was concerned about the costs of fixing the problems as opposed to building a new school, which has had cheaper estimates.

“If we do do a new school, is there going to be a check and balance?” he asked the board. “I don’t want my grandkids here in 50 years saying we’ve got to build a new school again. … Will there be something that can be written into this to where, we build a new school, are we going to maintain it, or are we going to wait until 50 years later to find out the air handlers are no good? Obviously, there’s been a breakdown because we didn’t do maintenance along the way.”

Sarah Trout told the board she was concerned about whether to build as opposed to making fixes to the problems, and whether doing so will help with student security.

“In the long run, is it (repairs) a band-aid? Is it going to be cheaper to do that or is it more economically responsible at this point and will we save money in the long run by starting with a new facility?” she asked. “If we have a new building – if we just went that route – would we have those variables that could end up costing us money?”

Other speakers expressed their frustration with tax increases, construction money available to the school district and trust in the school board and their decisions.

Board President Matt Roth said he appreciated the input from members of the community. However, he also felt there is still a lot of misinformation circulating throughout the community about the project and wanted to address those issues. He invited the public to contact their school board representative about any misgivings they may have.

The complete question and answer session, as well as the details of the presentation, can be accessed via livestream online by going to https://livestream.com/HNHS or by visiting the HCCSC website at hccsc.k12.in.us and clicking on the “FEATURED VIDEO” link on the left side of the web page.