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Leak pushes water bill at high school

By Alex Bridges

WOODSTOCK -- A leak in an underground pipe likely caused Strasburg High School's water bill to spike, district officials said Thursday.

The district can receive some relief in its water bill from Strasburg, Town Manager Judson Rex said Friday. Since the leak is in part of the pipe within the school property, the district must first repair the problem. Then the district can apply for relief offered by the town to all water consumers who experience major leaks in the lines, Rex said.

The issue came up as the School Board discussed the district's success with its efforts to curbing energy costs. Superintendent B. Keith Rowland said the district will receive an award by the Virginia School Boards Association for the measures and member Kathryn G. Holsinger noted initiatives have saved the district money on utility costs.

Chairman Gary L. Rutz said he agreed with Holsinger, but expressed concern that the water bill for Strasburg High School campus runs twice as the next highest bill.

"Something is just not right there," Rutz said.

Assistant Superintendent of Administration and Finance Jeremy J. Raley said a recently discovered leak in the underground pipe likely caused the cost to run higher. Raley explained that watering the athletic fields also could add to the bill. The leak is part of the pipe that takes water from the school building to the concession stand on the home side of the field, Raley said. Employees now turn off the water to the stand when not in use, according to Raley.

Maintenance Supervisor Gene H. Dykes said they are not going to look for the leak because, he said, there's 2,000 feet of pipe. "It's easier and cheaper to abandon the old pipe and run a new one, and ... that's the plan."

The report to the School Board came just after members approved the district's capital improvement projects plan. The document lays out district capital needs for five years and will be provided to the Board of Supervisors in the hopes of receiving funding for the priorities, according to Rowland. The needs list shows millions of dollars in capital projects.

"It's pretty in-depth in terms of what the immediate needs are," Rowland said. "This is not to say that those immediate needs don't change from time to time ... based on weather issues."

Roof repairs at some of the schools remains a priority, according to Rowland.

"That's not to say that the other issues have gone away," Rowland said. "It's just that sometimes things step up in front of those and that's certainly something we're concerned about."

In response to a concern raised by Holsinger, Raley commented on needed roofing repairs.

"I think we're wise in planning them in future years," Raley said, adding that they can repair them but need to recognize that over the next several years they will need to replace the roofs.

Peter Muehlenberg Middle School requires an estimated $12,000 in repairs, according to Raley. But the district needs to decide whether to continue to spend money on repairs or more to replace the roof, Raley said. The capital improvement plan schedules roof work for the school several years out.

Dykes advised the school's boilers remain a higher priority than roof repairs. Dykes told the board he thought the roof issue could stay on the plan as scheduled provided the county can fund the ongoing repairs. The 20-year-old roofs likely can last another five years, he said.

Rather than put more money into capital improvements for the repairs, Raley suggested the district increase the maintenance budget to cover the costs. The budget includes funding for repairs but not enough to make all the fixes necessary, according to Dykes.

Board member Karen S. Whetsel did not attend the meeting.

Also at the meeting, the board:

  • Voted 5-1 to approve agreements which allow athletic organizations to use fields at several schools. Memoranda of understanding exist between the school district and Little League Baseball of Strasburg, the Shenandoah County Soccer League and Little League Football organizations of Mount Jackson, Strasburg and Woodstock. The agreements as approved cover 2013-2015.
    Holsinger voted against the motion to approve the agreements. As Rowland explained the agreements call for the user to pay $750 for one field or $1,500 for two fields.

  • Voted 6-0 to approve a memorandum of understanding between the school system and Woodstock Edinburg Community Baseball Inc. The agreement calls for the parties to enter into a two-year contract to allow the athletic organization to use the baseball field at Central High School for practices and games in the summer of 2013 and 2014. The club will pay $105 per game played on the field, but the organization does not have to pay for practices.
  • Discussed a recommendation to withdraw its participation in the Performing and Visual Arts Northwest program and to approve the creation and funding for an alternative program for county students.
  • Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com


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