The largest expenses on the estimated cost of repairs for improvements to Jim Darcy Elementary over the next 15 years are a new septic system, ranging between $600,000 and $800,000, and mechanical upgrades expected to cost up to $850,000.
The plumbing needs to be addressed since there are elevated lead levels in the water, although not above allowable limits by the Environmental Protection Agency, said John Carter of district support services.
“We still have not been able to pinpoint the cause, although we know it’s not in the well,” Carter said.
As best as officials can determine, the lead in the water is caused by the soldering used in the pipe fitting, he added.
“This may not be unique to this building,” Superintendent Bruce Messinger said, adding that it could be the same in other schools as well.
Water in the drinking fountains is free of lead, however, since there is a filtration system in the school.
More than half of the roof will need to be replaced in the next five years.
Seismically, the building is satisfactory, Carter said.
“But it would be a good idea to add sheathing for structural reinforcement if we are doing a roofing system,” Carter added.
The 8.1 acres is adequate per Wyoming Education Specifications (the district uses Wyoming’s since Montana has none), but the building is only 60 percent of recommended size for 274 students and 37 staff and volunteers occupying the space five days a week. The assembly space is not adequate since it’s also the cafeteria, and the gym has an occupancy limit of 260.
In total the estimated cost of repairs in the next 15 years is between $3 million and $4.2 million, which includes upgrades to the electrical system, security and accessibility.
Each month Helena school trustees hear a facility assessment on a school building. The next facility assessment will be presented at Broadwater Elementary at 5 p.m. on March 23.