Homer High School Principal Doug Waclawski would really like to get the big trash can out of his office. Lately, it’s been there catching water falling from the ceiling.
Waclawski’s office was not the only room to have water damage when the high school’s aging roof recently suffered a leak that affected several offices and the areas over the gymnasium and library. The school’s athletic department had to reschedule a few basketball games because the gym was unusable. Waclawski described water-logged tiles falling down from the ceiling.
Luckily, the school will see an initial phase to replace part of the roof thanks to an ordinance recently passed by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly.
Installed in 1983, the school’s roof is approximately 141,000 square feet. It has “exceeded its useful life,” according to a memo that accompanied the assembly ordinance that appropriates funding to design a project to replace an initial section of the roof. The ordinance was introduced on Feb. 16 and passed at the assembly’s March 2 meeting.
The entire roof needs to be replaced, and the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District presented the replacement project as a whole to the assembly as part of a proposed package of 19 critical deferred maintenance projects in February. If approved by the assembly, the school projects would go before borough voters in the form of a bond package in the October election.
The total cost of the 19 school projects was estimated at $30 million when the district presented them to the assembly in February. Of that, the total cost to replace Homer High’s entire roof was estimated to be $8.2 million.
The ordinance passed by the assembly this month authorizes funding for design of the initial phase of the roof replacement, since certain areas of the roof were recently identified as being in more immediate need of repair. Phase 1 of the project will replace about 34,000 square feet of roof — the sections covering the gym area and loading dock area.
“We had two hallways that had leaks. We have about 40 to 45 leaks in the gym,” Waclawski said, describing the recent leaks. “… We have huge leaks in the library, we have leaks in my office.”
Waclawski said the roof is normally safer from leaks in the winter, when the snow on top freezes over. The trouble came when Homer experienced a series of freezing and thawing weather, which caused the snow on top of the roof to melt into water that then entered the building, he said.
In the gym, it got so bad that “we were having to empty a 55-gallon trash can about every hour,” Waclawski said.
Phase 1 of the replacement project was estimated to cost $1.8 million. According to the ordinance passed by the assembly, it will be funded by using approximately $1.2 million in remaining school bond funds from 2014, which will be transferred from the Redoubt Elementary Roof replacement project. That redirected bond funding will be supplemented by interest earned on school bonds, as well as an appropriation from the borough’s general fund to complete Phase 1.
The $180,000 appropriated from the borough general fund by the assembly’s March 2 ordinance is specifically for the project design phase and completing project bid documents.
According to KPBSD Director of Planning and Operations Kevin Lyon, the first phase of the roof replacement has been approved by the Department of Education and Early Development for $1.4 million, with state participation at about $1.2 million.
Lyon said he expects the total roof replacement estimate of $8.2 million to be reduced, as recommended by the Borough Purchasing and Contracting Department. He estimated that the revised amount for the total roof replacement will be in the range of $7 million.
The initial phase of the roof replacement getting underway is welcome news for Waclawski. The damage to the roof is nothing new for the school and has been a long time coming.
“We’ve had little leaks for a long time here, depending on the weather,” Waclawski said.
The danger with leaks is that staff don’t know where the actual penetration sites are in order to patch them, he said. Waclawski said it makes sense to target the most vulnerable areas of the roof with this initial phase. It would take an incredible amount of manpower to actually replace the whole roof in one go, he said.
Waclawski pointed out that the longer the school waits for the roof to be replaced, the more money deterioration to the building will cost down the road.
“We’ve just known for a while,” he said. “They’ve waited and waited, and we’re now to the point that we can’t wait any longer.”