Response to Engineer

A letter to the editor entitled "Engineer has unique insights" appeared in The Wellington Enterprise on October 25. It discussed some problems that the author sees with my alternative plan. This letter was well thought and well written, however, it left out some pertinent information.

First, let me state that I respect the author's opinion as a construction engineer with several years of experience. However, I too have many resources that have aided in my quest for the truth about McCormick. I have family members and friends who are in various areas of the construction industry, my father was the custodian at McCormick for many years, and I personally spent nearly six years working for the school district - much of the time at McCormick. I don't think there is any nook or cranny in that building where I have not been. In addition, I spent two years of college studying architecture before deciding that career was not right for me. However, I still remain in touch with several friends who completed the architecture program and are now registered architects. This doesn't make me an expert and I've never claimed to be; however, it does give me a good basis to understand the situation and to know who can best help get me the information that the public needs to make an informed decision.

The author of this letter states that trailers would cost $1.2 million and would be a waste of money. As I discussed in the article Renovation Examples and Images, I believe this figure to be extremely high. That is one estimate that the school received. One estimate. If you hire a contractor to remodel your kitchen, do you just pick a name and hire them or do you get estimates for a few contractors? The author failed to mention that OSFC will pay for half of whatever cost is required for trailers. Utilities are not as outrageous as he makes them sound either. Each trailer group would require a utility hookup, but each group would have 6-10 classrooms. Regardless, the cost of utility hookups, sidewalks, and other site prep work is a drop in the bucket to the overall cost of the project - either renovation or new construction. Trailers are a safe, effective, and economical way to house students for temporary or even permanent quarters. Middle school students at Keystone have been utilizing trailers for years without issue.

The author is correct that the original 1867 building was a beautifully ornate structure. I disagree that the additions to the building detract from its beauty. I would say that they hide it entirely. This section of the building is really only visible from one side and that requires looking across the bullpen full of buses. Tearing this section down will not have any affect on "our Wellington skyline" because you can't even see this section from South Main Street. Regardless of whether the north and south sections are on the same elevation, a newly constructed section replacing this central core would allow for clear, easy circulation without the need to "go up to go down." Since the new construction would meet with each of the three remaining sections, it would be easy to install two elevators for full wheelchair access. If the elevations are slightly different, ramps would certainly allow for this change without requiring an elevator ride.

The author also discusses the hidden problems that can come about in renovation of old buildings. He is absolutely correct. However, he has overlooked two important things here. First, when you renovate an old house you probably don't have the blueprints that were used to construct it. Not the case here. The blueprints for McCormick exist. I know that I have personally studied the blueprints for the 1916, 1938, and 1953 sections. They may not prevent all surprises, but they would certainly prevent many. Second, in any renovation project approved by the OSFC, there is a required contingency fund added to the budget so money to fix any surprises is built in. In the case of McCormick, OSFC's estimate of renovation costs included a 7% contingency ("fudge factor") that equates to $1.14 million.

Finally, the author makes the argument that a "remodeled" school would cost more to operate than a new school. Keep in mind, we're talking renovation, not remodeling. There is a difference and it is an important one. He cites an example from the Journal of Light Construction where a home built in 1908 was being renovated to improve energy efficiency. However, this is not an apples-to-apples comparison. There is a big difference between a home and a commercial or institutional building such as a school. Also, the author does not point out that this project involved new, unproven, experimental technology. He also did not point out that the house being retrofitted was a Dutch Colonial design and had wood frame construction. It's hard to make a comparison of energy efficiency between any wood frame and masonry structures. It's even harder when you're trying to compare a 3,200 square foot wood frame home to a 100,000 square foot brick and mortar school.

A renovated McCormick Middle School would have an energy efficient geothermal HVAC system, an efficient circulation design (for student movement), and would be large enough to meet our district's needs for many years to come.


Disclaimer:This site is not affiliated with the Village of Wellington, Wellington Exempted Village School District, or Citizens for Wellington Schools.  This site is privately owned and maintained and all expenses are paid for out of my own pocket.  This portion of the website was created to bring all pertinent information to one place, because when I did my own research on the subject I found that the information being published is sometimes incomplete or incorrect.  I have been careful to verify as much of my information as possible.  The sources of my data can be found within the links on the Resources page.