At its regular meeting on Monday, August 22, the Johnson County Schools Board of Education decided that time is money.
The discovery of two separate coal seams at the future site of the new Johnson Central High School presented a conundrum for the board, as they were forced to choose between rendering one coal seam unrecoverable or delaying their new construction by another. year.
Multiple factors played into the discussion, during which the council decided that it was in its interest to deal with the construction of the secondary school in the fastest and most reliable way rather than to undertaking a risky coal salvage in hopes of making between $500,000 and $875,000 of the cost of the project.
On the one hand, according to Dewey Bocook of Bocook Engineering, Inc., there was the possibility of digging approximately 22 feet deeper into the planned construction site to recover the second of the two joints, which would extend the construction time by a full year and land the opening date of the new facility in 2028. In addition to this extended completion time, the recovery of the second seam would lead to the construction of the foundation of the facility on an artificial embankment, rather than on solid rock, which one community member said he saw create “horror story.”
“Mr. Bocook, I’ve worked for a soil scientist for 32 years and I just want to voice my opinion here, I don’t think we need to build on fill. Even technical fill is really, really difficult. You set up and I’ve seen horror stories after the fact when the building fails,” the community member said. “If you can avoid this technical embankment, I would avoid it. I can name 10 or 15 sites I visited that were artificial embankments and still had differential settlement issues. So I would take the first option and build on the plinth.
Bocook said there was a compaction technique that could achieve around 95% compaction on the backfill soil, and agreed that, as far as his opinion was concerned, there were many reasons that leaned towards option one , which would only require the site to be dug 800 feet and place the foundation for the new building on solid bedrock.
JCBOE Chairman Bob Hutchison said he felt the time factor was a big issue and that the cost of materials and the possibility of further inflation making materials and labor even more expensive in the following years had to be taken into account. Hutchison also inquired about the proposed bridge construction off US 460 and how that timeline would unfold for the construction of the facility.
“My input, and maybe the board will have a different input…but I think the time element is a big factor here, the cost of materials. I think the first option is the only option Based on what you mentioned, did I understand that in a perfect world, the bridge would be finished about a year before school was finished,” Hutchison asked Bocook.
“Yeah…about a year, in a perfect world,” Bocook said.
“Then we’re looking at about two years for site work,” Hutchison said. “The way I look at it, then, with the way the costs have gone up over the last two or three years on the build itself, I’m not sure if I’d go for option two and reducing that 22 feet would be a win-win for the students or the school due to the time and money factor. I liked what you said about the first option, and I think it’s doable and that that would be a bit of a win-win Yes we need the money but I think the money we would get back from going the 22 feet to get to that higher level won’t cover the cost of building or the time wasted for education.
“There are several things that lean towards option one, but it’s up to all of you,” Bocook said.
District 1 board member Paul Greer pointed out that on top of that, the building would still be built on fill, even though it was fiscally beneficial to reclaim the coal.
“If we go with option two, even with the extra care you take, we’re still going to be dealing with filler, not solid, that’s another issue,” Greer said.
“It’s a big deal for me too,” Bocook said.
“Should we make a motion that we don’t want to sell the coal with the first plan,” Greer asked.
The first option still includes a large amount of salvaged coal and slightly offsets the cost of building the site – including selling the salvaged coal at around $60 a ton, which Bocook said was a conservative estimate due to the high sulfur content found in recovered samples. . This amount, after deducting approximately $25 per ton for cleanup, freight, taxes and other expenses, would mean that the school district would be able to recoup approximately $3.14 million of the $21 million projected in site development costs, according to data provided by Bocook.
With the Board’s vote to move forward with Option 1, projected start times for the project would be in 2023, with groundbreaking work at the site itself beginning in February and ending in February 2025, with the design of the bridge beginning in July next year and that process being completed around July 2026, according to a chart provided by Bocook. With the first option, school construction could likely overlap site development by just about a month, according to Bocook, starting in January 2025 and ending in July 2027, if all goes according to plan.
A motion was presented by Greer and seconded by Board Member Melvin Vanhoose and was unanimously approved by the Board.
The Johnson County Schools Board of Education meets the last Monday of each month at 5:00 p.m. in the Central District Administration Building on the campus of Johnson Central High School and Johnson County Middle School and all meetings are open to audience.