Natural spring likely cause of problems at SS High School
Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor

Oct. 12, 2005 -- The foundation and structural problems at Sulphur Springs High School are most likely the result of water from a natural spring, Douglas Smith with Wiss, Janey, Elstner Associates Inc. told school board members during a Monday night meeting.

Smith and Gary Bristow with Estes McClure & Associates Inc. Engineering Consultants have partnered on what has been an 18-month study at the high school to determine the cause of the shifting foundation and cracking walls and beams, and presented those finding to the board.

Smith noted that water found four to nine feet beneath the foundation causes the soil to swell, which shifts the foundation, making it unlevel in places. That, in turn, causes walls and other structural supports to shift, causing some cracking and breaking.

Smith recommended additional boring tests to definitively determine the original source of water flow, then implement a system to drain it away from the building. Once the water is controlled, the area should be allowed to dry and settle for a short period of time to determine the exact need for repair work.

The slab and foundation repairs could then be made, possibly over a summer break, following or around the time asbestos abatement is conducted. Then the interior walls and bearing absorbers should be corrected, possibly even at a later date, maybe when construction is being done on new additions if a proposed bond issue passes.

Smith and Estes presented a comprehensive computer slideshow report on the study and how they reached their conclusions, ruling out sewer and plumbing as problems. That information is available on request by contacting administrators.

Another item which took center stage during the two-hour open portion of the school board meeting Monday was the school bond issue. Superintendent Patsy Bolton discussed the two propositions voters are being asked to consider on the ballot regarding the bond.

Bolton said that the bond election was called after recommendations from a community-based facilities assessment committee, based on district needs communicated by school personnel and recommendations from the engineering and architectural firms. The committee recommended that the district break down the overall facility needs of the district into smaller pieces which would be addressed in order of need. 

The high school foundation and structure needs topped that list, with the asbestos abatement, repairs and additions included in the cost. The bond proposal allocates $2 million for the foundation and repair work.

Construction costs for building eight classrooms at Early Childhood Learning Center was added to the bond to provide funds needed to supplement a $229,000 grant allocated to the district for that purpose. If the district does not move forward with that project, the funds will be forfeited. The ECLC addition is estimated at $1,762,000. 

Also included in Proposition I is $3,233,000 for a science classrooms addition, $2,613,000 for a fine arts addition and $480,000 for asbestos abatement. The new science additions will provide six science labs to replace the three inadequate spaces currently available. The current band hall and choir rooms would be renovated and expanded to house all fine arts classes, freeing up other classrooms to get eight classes currently being taught "off carts" in fixed classrooms designated for those purposes.

Proposition 1 would require an increase in the tax rate, estimated at 3 cents per $100 property value or an increase of $2.58 a month on a $100,000 home, according to Bolton.

The wording of the bond regarding levying of the tax rate does not specify a specific amount, but does specify that the board can levy the tax only enough to cover the principal and interest on the bond. The tax from the bond cannot be used for other purposes, Bolton explained.

Proposition 2 would allow the board to reorganize existing debt, or "refinance" $3,500,000 in existing debt. In essence, that amount is still owed on fees borrowed in tax notes in 2000 and 2003. It is currently listed as falling under the maintenance and operations portion of the budget and tax rate. Proposition 2 would allow that amount to be classified under the interest and sinking portion, known as the debt portion of the budget and tax rates. It would not change the current tax rate, just which column it falls under, the superintendent explained.

Friday, Oct. 28, was established as the day the board will meet at noon to canvass the bond election returns.

Early voting in the school bond election will continue from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through Friday, Oct. 14, and the  election will be conducted from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 20, in the SSISD Administration Building, 631 Connally Street. More information about the bond can be obtained by contacting the superintendent's office, 903-885-2153.

In other business, the board tabled until a future meeting an item calling for approval of an agreement between Sulphur Springs Country Club and the district, as athletic officials are still talking with club representatives regarding the contract, which was not completed Monday.

The board also approved a resolution making the National Incident Management System the standard for incident management throughout the district. The system includes a four phase plan, which officials are currently working on, which must be completed and implemented in order for the district to be eligible for federal and state funding in the future.

A schedule of Red Ribbon Week activities was presented to the board, as were recent policy updates sent to the district by Texas Association of School Boards. The new policies will be discussed and will be presented for board approval at a future meeting.

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