Riverside-Brookfield High School’s new facilities director, Joel Hatje, told the District 208 school board last month that he thinks he has figured out three problems that have been bedeviling the building since the school was renovated and expanded a couple of years ago.
Since the renovation and addition was completed at the end of 2009, the school has struggled with new boilers that have not always worked properly, water leaking into the new fieldhouse after heavy rains and an occasional odor in one part of the building.
At the school board’s March 27 committee of the whole meeting, Hatje told the board that an incorrect part was installed on the boilers.
“The regulators that were originally installed didn’t meet the specs,” Hatje said.
On March 27 the firm 20/10 Engineering, which did the original installation of the boilers, came out and installed new regulators on the four boilers at no charge to the school. The regulators control the gas feed to the boilers.
Hatje told the board that he is hopeful that having the right regulators will fix the problems with the boilers, which often failed to restart automatically as they are designed to do.
“Now I know we have the right regulators,” Hatje said. “That makes me more comfortable.”
Hatje also told the board that he believes he knows why water has been leaking into the field house.
“In my estimation this is a drainage issue,” Hatje said.
After a heavy rain on March 23, rain water again entered the fieldhouse, a persistent problem since it was built. Hatje showed board members photos of the water in the fieldhouse.
“The flooding wasn’t real severe,” Hatje said. “It was enough to interfere if you were doing something close to that wall. It would affect that.”
District 208 Superintendent Kevin Skinkis said he and Hatje are working to get the problem fixed.
“Right now we are working with the architect for them to identify solutions on how this issue can be addressed,” Skinkis said.
A Permaseal coating that was applied last year has not solved the problem. The problem appears to be that the land just north of the north fieldhouse wall is slightly higher than the land on which the fieldhouse is set. Rain water apparently collects on the ground, runs downs to the concrete fieldhouse wall and then seeps in under the fieldhouse exterior wall.
Another problem being addressed is the sanitary stack beneath the swimming pool. It is apparently not draining properly and is causing odors to fill the special education wing.
“We need to vent that stack some more,” Skinkis said. “We’re working with the architects and the engineers to get some venting so it doesn’t create that odor.”
Chris Robling, a former school board candidate who has supported five of the seven current members of the school board, said that he was pleased that the current administration and board are addressing these problems.
Robling charged that these problems with the building had been covered up before Skinkis took over on July 1, 2011.
“What we now know beyond any shadow of a doubt is that the failure relative to the water sealing in the fieldhouse was kept from us, the sanitary stack problem was kept from us, the HVAC problem in the pool was kept from us, the problems with the boilers were kept from us,” Robling said.
Robling praised Skinkis and the current school board for acknowledging and dealing with the problems.
“In nine months it has corrected problems that were apparent from the moment of so-called transition,” Robling said. “We had very significant issues in systems that were complete and transferred to district management and they were being covered up by the prior administration and by the prior facilities manager.”
However former District 208 school board member Larry Herbst, who like Robling attended the March 27 meeting, took strong exception to Robling’s charge of a cover up when he was informed of it.
“Of the millions and millions of dollars of engineering that went into that project we’re quibbling over a couple of thousand dollars of gas gauges and copper piping,” Herbst said. “That’s your classic mountain out a molehill. It’s a political move by Chris to bring up minutia, small corrections, repairs whatever you want to call it two years after the fact. They weren’t hidden; they weren’t discovered.”