February 27, 2014

The Southern Calhoun school board accepted a $363,056 bid from King Construction of Wall Lake last week to demolish its elementary school building in Lohrville.

The building was closed two years ago following the district's first year of whole-grade sharing with Rockwell City-Lytton in 2011-12.

Asbestos removal is included in the bid from King Construction, accounting for about $66,600 of the cost. The construction company also estimates it will be able to salvage at least 35 percent of the building materials.

Asbestos removal is slated to begin by the end of March and take about a month. Superintendent Jeff Kruse anticipates demolition being complete by July 1, the date the two districts officially consolidate into South Central Calhoun.

The board rejected two bids to purchase the Lohrville property last year. The first, from Fort Dodge Youth Development, offered $6,000 to convert the building and grounds into a seminary and facility for troubled youth. The second, from Missouri contractor G.W. Duncan, offered $11,100 for the building, stating Duncan's intent to resell it to someone who would renovate and convert the building.

Lohrville residents cited concern with the first bid, referencing director Eric Jones' felony record that included drugs, weapons, assault and sexual assault charges. Residents and city council members also voiced concern with the latter bid, fearing the contractor would not succeed in reselling the building, leaving the dilapidated structure to detract from the community appeal until the city became fiscally responsible for tearing it down.

In September, the Southern Calhoun board, with the support of the future South Central Calhoun school board, instead voted to work with the city to demolish the building. However, according to Kruse, the City of Lohrville will not be contributing funds to the demolition project.

The SCC district will attend a school budget review committee hearing at the Iowa Department of Education on March 25 to request permission to pay for the demolition from the general fund, said Kruse. Districts are normally not allowed to spend general-fund money on infrastructure, but if it receives special permission to do so, the district could replenish those funds by levying cash reserves, an authority that can be used only for the general fund, not for infrastructure funds. Levying cash reserves does not increase property taxes, Kruse added.

If the district does not receive permission to use general-fund money, the cost of the demolition will be paid out of the 1-cent sales-tax revenue. Currently, the Southern Calhoun and Rockwell City-Lytton districts each receive about $300,000 per year in sales-tax funding, which is to be spent on building and grounds projects and technology improvement.

More than two-thirds of the Rockwell City-Lytton portion for the next eight years is slated to pay for the fine-arts addition built two years ago. Kruse said the Southern Calhoun and South Central Calhoun districts have no intention of borrowing funds to complete the demolition. If SCC does not receive special permission to use its general fund, it will have significantly less money available for technology purchases or other buildings and grounds needs next year.

The district is also in the process of applying for a derelict building grant, which could contribute about $50,000 towards the demolition.

The King Construction bid was the lowest of seven received by the school board. Other bids included Keller Excavating Inc. from Boone for $722,320; Peterson Contractors Inc. from Reinbeck for $490,800; Veit & Co. from Rogers, Minn., for $498,545; DeCarlo Demo from Des Moines for $729,053; and DW Zinzer Inc. from Walford for $495,400.

According to Kruse, the city will look for opportunities to sell the property to a business or organization once it has been converted to a green space, but nothing specific is in the works.