Durango School District announces it will rebuild Miller on site – the Durango Herald


Cost estimate for new building increases by at least $ 5.5 million

The rebuilding of Miller Middle School will take place at its existing site, Durango school district officials said Thursday in a community feedback session hosted on Zoom. (Jerry McBride / Durango Herald file)

The rebuilding of Miller Middle School will continue at its current site after community feedback showed little appetite to relocate it.

The announcement came Thursday night during a third and final Zoom feedback session hosted by the Durango School District 9-R to examine Miller’s future.

One big problem remains: the reconstruction will cost about $ 5.5 million more than expected. That means 9-R plans to cut building expenses from $ 31.5 million to $ 26 million.

Superintendent Karen Cheser said, “This might not be the perfect building we wanted, but we have creative people and we will have the best building possible. “

During the feedback session, John Simpson, a Durango resident, asked why spending more would be problematic, as the district initially requested $ 90 million in bonds, but paying a slightly higher interest rate, called a premium payment, he was able to raise $ 114 million in bond issuance. .

“We got another $ 24 million, and now we’re being told we need to build a ‘Miller-lite’,” he said.

Simpson said the district must explain where all the money that will fund the projects from the $ 114 million bond will go.

9-R chief financial officer Samantha Gallagher said the problem was that in long-term planning assessments to prepare for the bond issuance, the district identified $ 130 million in need.

Gallagher said 9-R officials expect a breakdown detailing where the bond money will go on its website next week.

Although the updated cost estimate to rebuild Miller on its current site added at least $ 5.5 million to the price, the people of Durango still prefer the current location over the other proposed sites, adjacent to the site. Riverview Elementary School or Three Springs.

Durango resident Ericka Curlee said she knew additional costs would be incurred to build on site, and she wanted to reiterate that she was “okay with that”.

Voters approved a bond issue in November 2020 that raised $ 114 million to rebuild Miller, build a new vocational technical education center, pay for safety and security improvements to all schools, and eliminate a backlog of maintenance and repair needs in all Durango School District 9 -R schools.

Since the bond was approved, Gallagher said, an already identified need to replace heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems in all schools has increased in priority and cost given the COVID-19 pandemic.

About $ 40 million of the bond issue went to the Miller project, and of that, $ 31.5 million was spent on the actual construction of the building. The rest of the money goes for furniture, technology, and non-construction costs, such as utility infrastructure.

The new cost estimate, adding at least $ 5.5 million to Miller’s on-site reconstruction, means the money available for a new school building at the current site would only be $ 26 million.

The new cost estimate provided to 9-R by Jacob, the management company hired to guide the administration of the bond projects, found:

  • An increase in cleanup costs of at least $ 2.5 million.
  • An increase of up to $ 2 million due to additional construction costs created by operating on a small site and the need to rebuild the sports field after reconstruction.
  • An increase of $ 1 million to meet new stormwater retention requirements.

In addition, on-site construction will require a phased approach to construction, which will increase the duration of the project and add an as yet undetermined cost.

9-R officials are still debating whether Miller’s on-site reconstruction can take place with the students remaining at the old school or whether they will need to be moved off campus, most likely to modules.

Under federal law, the district must spend 85% of the bond money in the first three years after issuance.

Because Miller accounts for 35% of total bonds, Miller’s rebuilding must take place within the next four years.

Additionally, design for the rebuild is scheduled to begin by the end of August to meet 9-R’s goal of opening a new Miller for the 2024-25 school year.

A survey 9-R conducted for community feedback on Miller’s reconstruction showed:

  • 39% of respondents prefer to rebuild on the existing site with students off site during construction.
  • 35% prefer to rebuild on the existing site with the students staying in the current school during construction.
  • 14% prefer to rebuild the school in Three Springs.
  • 12% prefer to rebuild the school on the same 9-R lot that currently includes Riverview Elementary School.

The district explored building a new miller at the La Plata County Fairgrounds, which La Plata County is considering moving to Durango Mesa.

However, La Plata County officials informed 9-R that construction on the current fairground could not take place in the next four years, eliminating the fairground alternative.


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