CENTERVILLE — A bid was accepted for the first phase of improvements at Howar Middle School, and began the process for designing improvements at Centerville High School.

The low-bidder was Burlington-based Bi-State Contracting for $1,989,485.

By a split vote, the board awarded the contract to them after a discussion on whether the project should be delayed due to some supply chain issues in the world of contracting.

The first phase of scheduled improvements include a renovation to the office and entry area for security, as well as upgrades to the fire alarm and new emergency lights. Contracts will also install air conditioning to the 1950s wing of the school.

The second phase of construction which will be included in a future bid will do additional fire alarm upgrades and install air conditioning in the 1970s wing.

Board member Mike Thomas opposed the approval, citing concerns over whether there will be supply chain issues that delay the project and cause a burden. He recommended waiting a year.

"All you're going to do is throw one school into a real tizzy," he said.

The contractor told the board they did not have concerns outside of the chiller unit, which is a significant lead time product. However, he recommended going forward to lock in the price now.

"Prices are going to continue to go up," said Mike Jackson from Bi-State Contracting. "The best bang for your buck is now."

Board president Marty Braster argued it was important to lock in prices now, as construction costs will only continue to go up.

"If it's any more expensive than it is right now, we'll have to significantly cut back," Braster said. "If it goes up 5% we'll have to cut things out of this project." He also added there's no guarantee a year-wait would take away any supply issues that may arise.

The board awarded the contract with a 4-2 vote. Mike Thomas and Kris Shondel voted no.

In other action:

— The board voted to amend their contract with FRK Architects of West Des Moines to include services related to the Centerville High School project. The schematics are expected by June, with design development complete by September.

— The district will offer a virtual academy option next school year, with the board voting to move forward. The district will pay a per-pupil cost to Edgenuity to offer virtual education for K-12. The purpose is not to recruit students out of the classroom, but rather to offer an option from the district for those seeking virtual instruction due to COVID-19, personal preference or other issues.

— Next year's budget was certified, solidifying a substantially lower tax rate beginning July 1. The district will ask less of property taxpayers, approving a rate of about $17.61 per $1,000 in valuation. That's a more than $1 drop from the current rate of $18.73.

Kyle Ocker is the editor of the Ottumwa Courier and the Oskaloosa Herald. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @Kyle_Ocker.


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Kyle Ocker is a Centerville native and award-winning multimedia journalist. Kyle is currently the president of the Iowa Freedom of Information Council and vice president of the Iowa Print Sports Writers Association.

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