December 20, 2012 | Vol. 116 -- No. 35

School board hears facilities issues at December meeting

One way or another, a good portion of the business conducted at last Wednesday’s Cheney School Board meeting revolved around issues with district facilities.

During the public comment period representatives from two subcontractors on the recently completed middle school projects presented the board with their case for payment of over $500,000 in work installing communications cable that is hung up in a dispute over whether or not the cable is suitable for the area of installations.

In an interview Monday, district Superintendent Dr. Debra Clemens said midway through construction the state Department of Labor and Industries identified the cable as not meeting code and stopped installation. The cable, suitable for dry locations, was being installed in underground slab areas the L & I inspector determined were wet locations.

Clemens said the district hired a firm to look into the matter and they also found several locations that could be defined as wet locations. The various parties met to discuss the situation and came up with a couple options on how to run the cable, but because of a tight deadline to get the schools opened, the cabling was completed.

“The cabling was 90 percent complete before the inspector came in and said it was the wrong stuff,” Mike Agee of Agee Electric told the board.

System Tech representative Troy Mortenson said the subcontractors provided what the district specified, receiving signed and stamped approvals and that the cable is operating perfectly. He added that the manufacturer came out with a new version during construction and would not warranty what was installed at the middle schools.

Both men noted the cable is being used in other locations including new buildings at Eastern Washington University and new schools in Mead and Freeman.

Agee said the state was willing to give the district a waiver if they agreed to the installation, in which case both Agee Electric and System Tech would replace the manufacturer’s warranty with their own.

“If it’s not resolved in 30 days, we have no recourse but to sue the generals (contractors Lydig and Garco), who then sue the Cheney School District,” Agee said.

School board president Susan Dolle said they would take it under advisement. Clemens added Monday that while the cable is operating fine now, the district’s concern is for the future as well. The issue is headed to mediation in January 2013.

Also during comments, Cheney-area resident Debbie Roccanova presented the board with concerns about moving more departments and services from the Fisher Building in Cheney to the new administrative location at the former Nike missile site on Andrus Road. Roccanova said she has lived in the area since 1995 and she and neighbors were concerned about issues such as speeding, icy conditions and wildlife that can lead to serious accidents.

“It’s dangerous at best, deadly at its worst,” she said. Roccanova “implored” the board that if it is at all feasible to consider other locations for the services.

Cheney High School winter sports coaches Joel Soter, Jennifer Harmer and Wade Schlotter addressed the board about their programs. All three stressed the emphasis they put on their players to work hard both on and off the court in order be better athletes, students and citizens.

“My main thing is we are preparing them for the real world,” girls basketball head coach Jennifer Harmer said.

Harmer also relayed difficulties they are having in scheduling practices due to a limited amount of gym space. The boys and girls basketball teams alternate practice schedules between after school and late sessions while using whatever court is available, something Harmer said isn’t fair to other schools as it limits those students usage.

“We are really strapped for gym space,” she said. “Any creative minds, any help, I am begging for your help and advice in opening up more gym space.”

Finally, the district accepted a rebate check for $161,120 from Avista Utilities for energy saving measures taken in construction of the Cheney and Westwood middle schools. The board approved Spokane County easements for drainage and sidewalks on Hallett and Holly roads, along with an extension of Holly, at the Snowdon Elementary School construction site.

The board also approved the sale of high voltage power infrastructure on the Nike site to Inland Power. District maintenance supervisor Jeff McClure said Inland Power did work bringing the infrastructure up to code when the district took over the site from the federal government, coming in about $70,000 less than the estimated $200,000 price tag. The district isn’t capable of maintaining the equipment whereas Inland Power is, McClure said.

Per federal requirements the sale was for $1.

John McCallum can be reached at jmac@cheneyfreepress.com.

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