Chesterton Tribune



School board approves remodel of new wellness center 4-1

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The new wellness center for Duneland faculty and staff may be ready by next fall after the school board awarded a bid on Tuesday, to the Valparaiso-based Vendramini Construction, of $251,900 to complete the renovation work at the former Instructional Materials Center at 411 S. Fifth Street.

Discussions of the project have been going on for almost a year now, Duneland Superintendent of Schools Dirk Baer said, after the school corporation entered into a two-year agreement with Novia CareClinics of Indianapolis as its wellness provider last November, as recommended by its employee benefits committee.

Baer said the goal of having a wellness center is to help the school system lower its health insurance costs by promoting healthier lifestyles. NoviaCare would provide primary and preventive care, limited laboratory work, and chronic disease management. It will be free to use for participants in Duneland’s Healthcare program.

School officials have pushed to use the 5,700 sq. ft. IMC building, which has been vacant for about three years, as a wellness center and garnered a variance from the Chesterton Board of Zoning Appeals in February.

The first round of bids were rejected by the board when they came in “much higher than anticipated,” but opted to re-bid the project.

Duneland collected seven bids the second go-around with the base bids ranging from $244,000 to $331,000.

Baer said the board has the choice to use $155,000 in a rainy day fund to cover the remaining costs and personally recommended accepting the amount for the remodel over the other option, which is to rent space at a venue not owned by the DSC.

“The rainy day money is supposed to be there for these purposes. We still own the facility. We are going to have to do something with it in time,” said Baer.

Board President Mike Trout said he supports Baer’s recommendation as it has also been talked about with the employee benefits committee. He said its “unfortunate” that the budget was not “right on,” but that is to be expected with any remodeling project.

Member Ralph Ayres added that the IMC is centrally located for staff to use and said he is “very impressed” so far with Novia CareClinics. Fellow board member John Marshall supported the effort as a way for DSC to better manage its health care costs.

On the fence was member Ronald Stone who said he was “torn between” using the rainy day fund or renting a facility elsewhere, but said he was glad to see the lower bids came in.

More certain in her opposition was board member Kristin Kroeger who felt it would be better to rent a space for two years and see what the healthcare costs savings are at that time. DSC could by that time have funds ready to complete the remodeling.

“I think it is more cautious to wait and see on the healthcare fund,” she said.

Ayres said that new legislation passed in the Indiana Assembly allows any property left unused by a public school corporation for two years to be available for charter schools to request use of, so keeping the IMC building vacant could result in losing it.

Since the rainy day fund does not have a permanent funding stream, Assistant Superintendent of Operations Dave Pruis said a public hearing would be needed prior to board approval.

The board opened the public hearing. No one came forward to speak.

The board then proceeded with the vote to accept the lowest bidder, Vendramini, with a base amount of $244,000 and two alternative bids -- $1,200 for additional roof insulation and $6,700 for painting the exterior walls.

The vote was 4-1 with Kroeger dissenting.

Architect Bob Gerometta, of Gerometta & Kinel in Chesterton, said some touch-ups have already been made to a vestibule and other things such as a few new windows to add more natural light. One of the restrooms will be made ADA compliant, he said.

Other features will include a canopy entrance, a patient waiting area, exam rooms, a lounge for staff, medical record storage and extra space for a possible physical therapy area in the future.

Gerometta said he expects the work to take two to three months, putting it on track for completion in August or September.

PCD Policy

In a separate matter Tuesday, the board voted unanimously in favor of approving a policy that decrees personal communication devices such as cell phones, smartphones, and computers are not to be seen or heard during school hours or at after-school activities, including on buses to and from school.

Only “under certain circumstances” a principal may allow a student to keep his or her PCD on, the policy reads.

Violators may see their devices confiscated and would need their parent/guardian to retrieve the item from the school office.



Posted 6/6/2013