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First phase of Aspen school construction begins in May

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Education > County to use residential easements to install additional water line

By Tris DeRoma

A $1.3 million utilities project marks the first phase of a $12.4 million renovation of Aspen Elementary School.

The Los Alamos Board of Education recently approved the opening stage designed to get the construction started. The project will include permanent installation of water lines as well as sewer, gas and electric lines. The new utilities will first be used for the incoming portable classrooms, which will be located on the school’s soccer field.

The project is set to begin this May, according to school officials.

Probably the most complex part of the construction will be the installation of the water lines. According to Los Alamos Fire Marshal Brian Nickerson and other county officials who had input on the project, the lines are mainly needed to bring Aspen up to current fire code.

One line will come in from the south, the other the north. The southern one is designed to feed the school’s new fire suppression system as well as a new fire hydrant that will be located in back of the gym. Officials said that line will not come through neighbor’s property, as it will come through a wooded area before hitting school property.

It’s a different story for the water line coming in from the north, however. County officials said they are going to have to use easements that have already been built into residential property surrounding the school. That water line will end up traveling straight along the school’s parking lot, corner the north side of the school, and exit the north side of the campus before tying into a water line in the middle of Walnut Street.

Though the project has been a year in the planning stages, another factor weighing on board members is the one factor they can’t control, the construction and renovation that’s ongoing at the middle school. Though that project is due to wrap up near the beginning of the 2014 school year, no one is 100 percent sure that’s going to happen, which may impact the availability of the portable classrooms for Aspen. In any event, school district officials were mindful of making sure the district pays for the portables to be moved only once––to Aspen.

“If you approve this, then we will set up a temporary campus of eight portables that will house the administration, sixth grade, and the library at Aspen,” said Joan Ahlers, assets manager for the Los Alamos Public School District. “If you don’t approve this tonight, then that doesn’t happen and then conversely —sorry to put the pressure on you guys —that could interfere with the middle school project. If we don’t have a place to put those portables, we’re going to pay for moving twice. Should the middle school project come in on time, then we have a place for those portables to go. It only makes sense to have to move them once.”

According to Ahlers, the basic cost to move one portable classroom runs the district about $10,000 once the utilities and other services are performed to get a portable operational.

Before a vote was taken, Board Chair Jim Hall asked a few more questions to make sure he and the board were making the right decision.

“So, if we approve this work package, and the middle school is not complete, Jaynes (the contractor for Aspen) can start work on the front part of the school and Aspen school can operate ... If the middle school is completed on time and we have time, then we can move all the portables to the Aspen school?”

After receiving an affirmative answer from Ahlers and some further discussion, the board unanimously approved the project.