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Arena Village Board looks into possible uses for school building


September 13, 2018

The Arena Village Board met in September and heard from the citizen committee that has been working on possible uses for the Arena school building. Jay Jones, Karen Wilkinson and Eric Drachenberg have worked to provide information that will help the board decide the future of the building. Paul Pustina was asked to join the group recently and commented that they have done an excellent job for the village, working far beyond what he had expected.

Jones spoke to the board first. He said the information they were reporting to the board with was divided in four areas and each committee member would speak on one of them. He said he would talk about acquisition. Wilkinson would talk about cost of utilities and maintenance, Drachenberg would discuss the vision and Pustina would discuss what they have learned about day care options. They were not looking for answers from the village board that night, he said, but they are at a point where they want to share information they have accumulated. Though they hadn’t received a price from the River Valley School District, he quoted a figure that had been given to the Lone Rock board of $1. He said he hoped to find out soon what the district will want for the Arena school building and grounds. When the committee asked the district building and grounds committee in May, they were told a precedent was set when the Clyde school years ago was sold to that township for $15,000. He said he hoped they could depend on the $1 price, but whether it was $15,000 or $1, the village should make an offer if they want it, possibly at their next meeting. River Valley School District Administrator Tom Wermuth did say the price he had in mind was not what the School board might agree on. Jones thinks Wermuth does have some influence and sway with the board, and the acquisition price is not going to be a stumbling block. Usually in normal sales the seller sets the price and the buyer either agrees or doesn’t, but this is not a normal sale. It appears the School board is willing to hear an offer. October is the deadline the school district would like, though the committee was told that was not a firm timeline.

Wilkinson gave the figure of $22,000 for what school district former business manager Jon Novak and current business manager Brian Krey said was right for operating the school building. She felt that possibly $15,000 might be an actual cost when empty. She said Lone Rock’s figure was quoted at $14,000 when empty, but that didn’t include snow plowing and mowing. Added to that would be internet costs when the building is being used as well as sewer and water.

Drachenberg handed out information on the vision they are working on for the school building. This vision requires that the building be acquired and repurposed for the community at the best economic value possible and that it, after necessary remodeling, be an attractive and long term home for village offices, police department, food pantry, historians, library, gym, commercial kitchen and daycare as well as any other appropriate uses as determined in the future.

A map outlined the current rooms and how they might be used according to information gained from polling the residents and village board. The public felt that room should be made for the library and for daycare, probably for village offices and a police office. The gymnasium might be used for after-school sports and summer sports. Also mentioned was a nurse and possible doctor quarters. These were drawn out on the map. From the handicap accessible entry going down the hall past the mechanical (furnace) area they have numbered rooms to the right at the south end of the hall, and across the hallway. On the other side of the entry hall are the gym and stage areas and bathrooms. To the immediate right are rooms 106 for possibly a food pantry, rooms 107 and 108 for village offices and a meeting room. These can be reached by doorway A. This area would be shut off from the rest of the building by a locked inner door. Across from the village office would be the police department in room 109, and a possible addition could be added on that end for a potential police department garage. Continuing down from the police department toward the middle of the building, and across from the food pantry and village offices, would be rooms 110 and 111 for the community library, and possibly rooms 112 and 113 for a library reading room. Daycare was shown for rooms 114, 115 and 116. Across from these is the gymnasium which contains a stage and storage, especially historical storage. A small doctors office and a nurse office might be in the upper corner of the gym. Another door goes out of the gym to street level, and potential for expansion and another entrance off the playground was drawn by the state-certified kitchen. Clerk-treasurer Lisa Kopic said the gym could also be used for elections. 

In addition to the map, plans say entrance A would be the day-to-day entrance for the village office and police department. This entrance is on the south end of the building. A small existing restroom in the northeast corner of room 108 is accessible for these departments. Kopic requested a service window from the village office into the hallway to service walk-up customers. There is an existing small bathroom in the southeast corner of room 108 and an emergency exit into that room off the front parking area. Building inspector Tracy Johnson recommended this room (107) be a meeting room because of the outside entrance.

Police chief Lonnie Drinkall indicated the need for a climate-controlled two-car garage on the south end of the building, and it was shown on the map. This could be engineered and constructed as an addition using the existing south wall of the building as one of the garage walls and a fire door could be placed from the garage into the police department. 

Room 106 is the projected home of the food pantry. Running electrical needs would be convenient since the mechanical room is on the north wall of this room. Another point Drachenberg mentioned is the ease of getting the food pantry refrigeration condensers in that room, but it hasn’t been determined if this room would be large enough for the food pantry. Also, rooms 110 and 111 could be used as community meeting rooms or possible library expansion or other uses. The kitchen could be utilized as a certified commercial kitchen. 

None of the restrooms are ADA compliant, Drachenberg said, but Wilkinson corrected, saying the bathroom in the gym is handicap-accessible. Johnson said there is no requirement to update the restrooms to ADA unless they are remodeled. Johnson says restrooms are updated all the time and the only problem is the cost.

Air conditioning as well as all HVAC needs have to be investigated. Johnson suggested having multi-head air conditioners and heat pump units engineered and installed in the building. An estimate hasn’t been obtained for costs on replacing the boiler and remediating the asbestos in the mechanical room. The boiler won’t last forever and would need to be replaced at some point. Asbestos issues other than in the mechanical room are unknown at this time and will need to be investigated. Some felt it was only in the glue used in the floor tiles and was not a problem. It would be encapsulated in the glue. It was also noted that if there is an issue with asbestos, it wouldn’t have to be updated all at once, but just as each particular section is redone.

Installing a sprinkler system for the building for fire protection should not be needed with what is being considered at this point. A variance for not installing sprinklers signed by the fire department would need to be issued for the garage if it is built.

Electrical service is 400 amp, 208 volt three phase which would appear to be adequate for anything being considered, but the combination of air conditioner condensers and food pantry refrigeration condensers should be investigated to make sure.

There is a known issue with the sewer lateral running south from the building. It should be corrected before the building is re-occupied. Kenny Amble and Al Belgum have been contacted for an estimate on repointing the brick work on the outside gym wall. Engineering and contractor requirements haven’t been investigated other than this.

The school district has been contacted for information regarding the boiler, roofing needs and window replacement that have been done and needs to be done.

What has been left in the building by River Valley schools was asked. All or most of the juvenile library books have been left for the library and the books from the current reading room-library could be moved over there. A small number of desks, tables and chairs and a file cabinet have been left. In the kitchen the cooler has been removed but basically everything else has been left in there. It wouldn’t take much for that to be rented out as a certified kitchen to members of the community as a source of income.

Jones spoke on estimated costs. Hiring an engineering firm might be the best way to go. They would be responsible to make sure each part of the work would get done. The village would be responsible for contacting a firm to ask for cost estimates. It should not be more than 15 percent of the total project. He asked, “Are you ready to move forward?’ Accessing available funds will be important, he said. The sale of the existing village hall and police station will help with the cost. The committee’s work is done, now they are turning it over to the village board.

Pustina introduced Sarah Wedige as a possible daycare director to help them get a daycare started. She is a stay-at-home mother and has a teaching degree. She answered questions and gave information about daycares in the area. She recommends four rooms for dividing up the children by age groups, and having a space children can be picked up by the school bus each day. Though the map suggested three rooms for daycare, a fourth room could possibly be made available along that same side they had indicated for daycare. She said she definitely recommended starting a daycare, as she has had neighbors move away because of needing a daycare and she feels is could be a deciding factor for settling in any village or city.

Pustina presented three options for daycare. A privately run daycare would be easy for the board, as they would only need to collect the lease payment (which would cover a percent of the building maintenance and upkeep costs). The village would have no day to day responsibility. Cons for this type of daycare were that the village would be responsible for maintenance and upkeep of the building, would still need to maintain insurance coverage, and have oversight that the owner and programs meet all guidelines.

The second option, a co-op daycare using a group of people or a company, would allow the village to have like-minded people setting guidelines and no day to day operation responsibility. Cons for this would be the same as plan 1 and it would take an average of three years to get it up to speed.

In plan 3, a village run daycare would be exempt from some licensing requirements, they would still need best practices guidelines, and it is the easiest way to start a daycare program. There would be better access to grants and food subsidy programs, and a future goal would be to turn over the daycare to a private company or individual because it would have a track record. Having a village run daycare program makes it easy to develop a village recreation program, such as one in Cross Plains, which utilizes their recreation program for full day recreation and learning programs during the summer and has an after school program during the school year. Cons for this plan are oversight of additional employees, oversight of rules and guidelines, increases in insurance coverage costs possible and village is responsible for maintenance and upkeep and day to day operation.

Either of the three plans would require a feasibility study in and around the community to determine the actual need and benefit of each program. The closest large daycare is in Mazomanie, with approximately 80 children that attend, including children from the surrounding area of Mazomanie, Black Earth and Arena. Arena Cheese, as Arena’s largest employer, could be the first business to approach regarding interest in utilizing a daycare plan for their employees. If the interest is there this may provide a good base of children to begin with, and Arena Cheese might want to sponsor such a program. The availability of classrooms and library, a state approved kitchen and gymnasium and playground make startup costs minimalized. Approximately 11 to 13 percent of gross income is figured for rent or mortgage payment for privately run daycares. Another benefit of having a daycare is that the number of children enrolled could also be counted towards the number of people using the library and this helps when applying for and obtaining library funding. 

Jones said getting a daycare started right away would bring in revenue quickly. He had also checked into help from a library system to get a library started, and he found that they would be in the Southwest Library System but all the libraries around them are in the South Central Library System headquartered in Madison. This is because the division line for Wisconsin Public Library Systems in this area goes between Sauk and Dane Counties on one side and Iowa County on the other side. Iowa County is in the same Southwest Library System as Richland County, with headquarters in Fennimore. Arena’s closest libraries in the South Central system are Dodgeville and Lone Rock. Martha Bauer, who started the reading room in Arena, has worked in the Lone Rock library and is also now director at the Richland Center Library.

Going back to the engineering company, Johnson will require that the village have an engineering firm in order to make the vision come to fruition. Sequencing is just one aspect, as the various companies who will do the work will have to wait on each other for certain phases of the work. The village will be paying the companies involved and seeing that there is no big gap of time between work for the companies. Village president Matthew Schroeder asked Kathy Jennings from the audience how they could go about getting an estimate from the MSA Company. She said she would ask their architect for information on it.

In answer to Jones’ question of ‘are you ready’, Schroeder said yes they were. He said he was especially ready because he had that dollar for the building in his pocket right now. The committee was thanked for the work and answers to help the village board.

Trustee Ian McCririe made a motion to table further work on the building to long range planning so that group can set up a proposal and begin working on the project. There are some overages in this year’s village budget that can be used and Pustina mentioned the paying off of a debt that has freed up that amount of money to be used for something like this. He also said the Dane-Iowa Treatment Plant will be sending Arena a check for $26,000 for a true-up at the end of that debt.

In other board business an operator’s license was approved for Bruce Lauber after a motion by trustee Melissa Bandell, seconded by trustee Jessica Voight. Kelly Christianson told the board there was water standing in her neighbor’s yard because the drain was plugged with mud. She said this could be a bad thing when it starts to freeze and children have to stand there to get on the bus. This is on South Street. Public works supervisor Ben Thompson said they will be working on a plugged drain on Willow Street before they could get to South Street. Another problem was mentioned across the highway at neighbors near Grandma Mary’s. The water has an odor and a yellow color. Thompson said he would be flushing those pipes again, as he flushes all pipes at least once a year.

The Willow Street plugged drain cover is impossible to raise without special equipment because it is paved over. The board agreed to pay for the use of equipment to make sure nothing is clogging the drain.

Trustee Lauren Brown was the only board member absent at the night’s meeting. The next regular board meeting will be October 2.


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