Neligh-Oakdale is at standstill with fire sprinkler installation, and occupancy in basement classrooms is now "questionable."
Interim Superintendent Bill Kuester told board members during Monday’s meeting that he spoke to the fire marshal that morning and the basement project is now halted for several reasons.
Watch the archived board meeting on the ACN live stream channel
Kuester said the first obstacle is that the board failed to submit the correct documentation to the state fire marshal’s office. All correspondence with the fire marshal since January has been directly through board president David Wright, not the superintendent’s office.
The second obstacle is that a sprinkler system does not provide vertical separation "between the basement and the next level with a door," Kuester said. The board previously utilized an architect when responding to the fire marshal, but an architect has not been consulted since 2014.
The third obstacle, Kuester said, is that the company that was hired to install the sprinklers during the summer has not contacted the fire marshal’s office about the project.
“It caught me by surprise,” Kuester said. “I thought we had it all under control with the sprinkler system, but that’s not what I heard today.”
Kuester, who said Monday was his seventh day on the job, said he originally called Deputy State Fire Marshal Sean Lindgren to clarify occupancy after installing sprinklers.
“The reason I contacted (Lindgren) was I wanted to make sure that after sprinklers went in, we could have student occupancy in the room. I’m glad I did because what I heard was questionable,” Kuester said.
According to the correction order filed March 9, 2015, by the board, they planned to “install egress windows in every basement space” by August 2015. The night that plan was approved, the board also approved installing a walk-out door in the art room. That action came after three prior motions failed, which included installing egress windows in the rest of the classrooms.
In April, the board hired Ahern Fire Protection of Omaha to install sprinklers; however, Wright did not communicate that plan to the fire marshal, according to what Kuester told the board Monday.
After much discussion on how to proceed, Building and Grounds Chairman Ryan Koinzan said he wanted “to get the ball rolling because time is of the essence” and amend the March 9 plan of correction to include fire sprinklers in the basement. Kuester told the board he could have the documents ready for signatures by 9 a.m.
The July 13 agenda included neither discussion nor action on the fire marshal's plan of correction but did refer to "facility challenges."
Brad Higgins made a motion to amend the plan of correction with Kenny Reinke seconding. Roll call vote passed at 5-0 with Krista Schindler absent and excused.
Basement occupancy in the art room is also questionable by the start of fall classes. Kuester said he’s hoping to at least have the gas line that’s “just hanging there right now” moved by the start of school, so that not only construction of the walk-out door can continue, but the kitchen also will have gas for the stove.
“Unless we’re going to feed our students cold sandwiches, we need to have the gas line here by Aug. 14, and I think it’s going to happen. We just have to make sure Don Zegers and the gas company work together,” Kuester said.
Higgins asked if Zegers can continue working without the gas line being moved, and Kuester said it was difficult. The gas line was buried to the west of the school but has now been exposed due to extensive dirt work required to install the door from the art room.
Also on the facility, Kuester addressed the radon issue at the school. He said the basement classrooms tested at a 7.3 level, which was a concern to him. Kuester said he sought clarification on the number and was told 4.0 or below is recommended.
According to the Nebraska Health & Human Services, six tests were ran from January 3-May 11 at Neligh-Oakdale with three rooms showing elevated levels between 6.0 and 7.3, which the Spanish room having the highest level of radon.
View radon data from Nebraska Health & Human Services
Kuester said the district has more facility challenges than simply what the fire marshal addressed. He told board members they need to consider funding for a new alarm system, track, replacement of the 1950s boilers and roof structures.
He also reminded board members that a new activities bus was built into the budget for the 2014-15 school year and suggested since it was not purchased, those funds should be transferred to depreciation and used in 2015-16 for a new bus.