The Kenai Peninsula Borough is breaking up the $65.5 million school maintenance bond package passed last year into two, more manageable chunks, and hopes to have a new track and field completed at Seward High School this summer. That’s according to John Hedges, the borough’s purchasing and contracting director, who this month provided updates on the bond to the borough assembly and to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education.
“Between the approval of the bonds and now, we’ve decided that we would sell $30 million in bonding initially,” Hedges told assembly members during a meeting of the finance committee Tuesday.
“ … $30 million seemed to be like a reasonable figure to keep projects moving forward but not be sitting on too much of the bond funds for too long.”
Roughly 58.8% of the people who voted in the Oct. 4 municipal election supported allowing the borough to incur up to $65.5 million in debt for projects affecting 13 KPBSD schools.
District leaders have long tried to draw attention to the problem of deferred maintenance within KPBSD, which they estimate is a $420 million problem. The projects included in the $65.5 million package composed by the borough and the school district last year were selected with the intention of freeing up ongoing maintenance costs that can be used to address smaller projects.
Hedges said Tuesday that, funded through the first round of bond sales, will be work on six different projects from the list compiled last year, estimated to cost around $30 million. The projects include design consulting services for the replacement of Soldotna Elementary School and the renovation of Soldotna Prep School, as well as for the construction of restrooms and a concession facility at Kenai Central High School’s football field.
That’s in addition to the replacement of Seward High School’s track and field — which Hedges said the borough hopes to have completed this summer — and improvements to student drop-off areas at multiple schools. Design development for the siding at Soldotna High School and for roof replacements at Nikiski North Star Elementary, Mountain View Elementary School and Hope School is also included in the first round of bond sales.
According to the borough’s Bid Express page, requests for proposals have already been issued for the Seward High School track and Kenai Central High School’s concession stand. An RFP for design consulting services for the Soldotna Elementary replacement and Soldotna Prep renovation is expected to be released this month.
The reconstruction of Soldotna Elementary School, expected to cost $21.5 million, would involve tearing down the existing structure and building a new two-story structure closer to Binkley Street. Renovating Soldotna Prep, as part of which Soldotna Montessori, River City Academy and the KPBSD district office would move, is expected to cost $18.5 million.
Per Hedges’ Tuesday presentation, construction on the replacement of Soldotna Elementary is tentatively scheduled to begin in 2024, with completion in late 2025. The projects at Soldotna Elementary and Soldotna Prep School have the heftiest price tags of any other project included in the bond package.
Design development for the remaining projects identified in the bond package, such as security renovations at Kenai Middle School, the replacement of the track and field at Nikiski Middle/High School and improvements to the front entrance of Homer High School will take place next winter.
Hedges’ Tuesday presentation to the assembly finance committee can be streamed on the borough’s website at kpb.legistar.com.