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updated: 9/28/2012 2:33 PM

Cheapest St. Charles E. rec center mold fix: Raze it

Destroying building at East is Dist. 303's cheapest option

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  • Mold was found in the north wall of racquetball court #3, which was part of an addition in 1981 to the original 1974 building. The rec center is connected to St. Charles East High School, which was the site of a major mold problem in 2001.

       Mold was found in the north wall of racquetball court #3, which was part of an addition in 1981 to the original 1974 building. The rec center is connected to St. Charles East High School, which was the site of a major mold problem in 2001.
    BRIAN HILL | Staff Photographer

  • Mold was found in the north wall of racquetball court #3, which was part of an addition in 1981 to the original 1974 building.

       Mold was found in the north wall of racquetball court #3, which was part of an addition in 1981 to the original 1974 building.
    BRIAN HILL | Staff Photographer

  • St. Charles Unit District 303 school board member Jim Gaffney puzzles over the big dollar figures associated with either renovating or demolishing a portion of the Norris Recreation Center in the wake of mold discovered in racquetball courts this summer.

       St. Charles Unit District 303 school board member Jim Gaffney puzzles over the big dollar figures associated with either renovating or demolishing a portion of the Norris Recreation Center in the wake of mold discovered in racquetball courts this summer.
    James Fuller | Staff Photographer

 
 

The site of recent mold on the St. Charles East High School campus may be demolished if District 303 school board members choose the cheapest option presented to them Thursday night.

Taxpayers have already plunked down about $94,000 to remediate mold found in the ceilings and walls of three racquetball courts inside the John B. Norris Recreation Center. The school district took over maintenance of the recreation center in recent years as students make heavy use of the swimming pool, which needed expensive repairs the not-for-profit recreation center couldn't afford.

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Workers discovered mold during maintenance work at the beginning of August. The school and recreation center boards must decide what to do with the problematic portion of the building now that the mold is gone.

An architect presented three scenarios to members of both boards Thursday night. The cheapest option is demolishing the problematic, 35-year-old addition to the building. It would cost about $176,000.

The other two options involve two versions of remodeling the addition to plug entry points for moisture and either restore the racquetball courts or convert them into fitness rooms. The most expensive option costs about $444,000.

For the school district, the decision is a matter of how much money officials want to spend on top of what is already expected to be about $4.5 million for capital improvements to the recreation center. About half that cost will come within the next five years. Nearly $500,000 of that bill will come within one year, including roof work, diving board support structure replacements and various mechanical replacements.

School board member Jim Gaffney already indicated he's leaning toward the teardown option.

"If we're looking over the next 5 or 6 years at spending over $4 million, that's a considerable amount of money," Gaffney said. "And some of these expenditures have caught us a little bit off guard."

However, Gaffney recognized the demolition may not be in the best interest of the recreation center -- it hit an all-time high for paid memberships this past year.

Recreation center board member John Collins said the recreation center building belongs to the school district. The final decision is up to the school board, but the recreation center is willing to pay whatever it can to keep the addition.

District 303 students don't use the problematic section of the recreation center building.

"We're not here to make any profit," Collins said. "We'll take our users' money and, without cutting ourselves short, put it all back into the building."

The two boards agreed Thursday night to form a joint task force to examine the ability of the recreation center to cover the costs of keeping the addition. The task force will include some, as-yet unnamed members of the public with banking backgrounds.

The expectation is the task force will develop a recommendation for the school board by sometime in January. The school board can choose to accept the recommendation or go another route at that time.

Until then, the previously moldy areas will remain in their current form. School officials said the mold is gone and short-term steps have been taken to ensure it doesn't return despite the fact that moisture is still leaking into the building addition.

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