Aspen School District’s first major bond housing acquisition almost finalized
Nearly a year after approval, district making headway on housing, maintenance projects
It has been just shy of a year since voters approved a $94.3 million bond for facilities upgrades and teacher housing in the Aspen School District.
And thanks to high investor demand, the district’s high rating and current interest rates, the net project fund is actually around $114 million, according to an Oct. 8 email from current school board president Suzy Zimet and an attached March 25 memo forwarded by district Chief Financial Officer Linda Warhoe from Dan O’Connell, the managing director of RBC Capital Markets. The extra net proceeds do not come at a cost to taxpayers, Zimet wrote.
It breaks down to about $45 million in facilities work, $50 million in housing (most of that for acquisitions) and $20 million in discretionary funds, according to the bond update presented Tuesday at the Board of Education meeting.
So, what’s been done so far?
For one, the district is just about to cross the finish line on its first major bond-funded housing acquisition, a collection of seven units near the intersection of 8th Street and West Hallam Street on the site that was formerly home to Poppies Bistro Cafe.
“It’s the first major acquisition within this bond effort and it’s pretty cool and pretty special,” Superintendent David Baugh said during the meeting.
Housing program manager Elen Woods-Mitchell is “striving to have leases start Dec. 1,” she said at the meeting.
“I want to thank all of those who have been involved — this is a joy to present and the beginning of many more projects,” she added.
The district has not yet officially closed on the sale of the properties — there’s still a “punch list” of to-dos to clear through first — but intends to do so “soon,” Woods-Mitchell said Wednesday in phone interview.
“We are not current owners but we are slated to be,” she said.
An open house for some district stakeholders is slated for this Monday, Woods-Mitchell confirmed; the goal is “to keep people as updated as possible” moving forward, she said.
But that’s hardly the only thing that’s been ticked off the bond to-do list, according to the latest update from Damion Spahr, who works for the facility planning, design, and management company SitelogIQ and is a member of the owner representative team for the bond. (Spahr and Bob Daniel, who is also part of the owner representative team, have made frequent appearances at school board meetings this year with a runthrough of the latest progress on bond projects.)
Also in the books are a number of maintenance projects and updates across the elementary, middle and high school campuses, with the Denver-based Haselden Construction at the helm. Deferred maintenance is a top priority in the bond spending, Daniel said at Tuesday’s board meeting.
At the elementary school that includes roofing repairs and replacement of the terrace metal stairs — both “substantially complete,” according to the update — and the installation of no-touch faucets and flush valves is ongoing. (At the middle and high schools, those no-touch toilet and faucet projects are already substantially complete.)
At the middle school, roofing repairs are substantially complete, and installation of heat tape at the northeast entry to prevent snow buildup is ongoing; at the high school, science wing roofing repairs and an asphalt paving extension are both substantially complete.
Sitewide concrete repairs for safety also fall under that “substantially complete” category; light pole and head replacements are ongoing. There will be more concrete and asphalt repairs coming up, plus electrical metering at the bus barn, vent piping repairs at the high school bathroom and other repairs that are being priced and completed.
There’s also a continued effort to make headway on “immediate repairs and replacements for liveability” at existing housing owned by the school district.
Architecture and design firm Cuningham is working on design and pricing for the next phase of deferred maintenance projects, as well as a slew of other initiatives like design for safety and security updates and classroom and learning environment upgrades.
Also on deck is a study of District Theater and performing arts facility use that involves community meetings to get stakeholder input, plus work related to net-zero initiatives bus barn upgrades, athletics and recreation facilities and a new Cottage preschool and district administration offices.
As for future updates in the housing realm, the district has been working with McKinstry, a company that specializes in the design, construction, operation and maintenance of high-performing buildings, to conduct a housing facilities assessment to evaluate the laundry list of repair and maintenance needs.
That assessment will be published this month, according to the update presented on Oct. 12; the work to finalize repair scopes and contracting methods is already underway.
Coming up in bond progress, keep an eye out for development and recommendation on project scopes, budgets and schedules.
“Significant work” is slated to occur next summer, and there’s designing to be done in all areas; work on safety and security and deferred maintenance will be put on the fast track, according to this week’s bond update.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to reflect that a March 25 memo was forwarded by Linda Warhoe but originally sent from Dan O’Connell, managing director of RBC Capital Markets.
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In the race for three seats on the Aspen School District Board of Education, some candidates have taken a more spartan approach to campaign finance than others, contribution and expenditure reports show.