Tweaks made by architects to improve the efficiency and design of Monticello’s school building renovation project should still allow it to come in close to the $29.8 million cost voters approved last fall.

At the same time, representatives from BLDD Architects told the school board Aug. 22 they attempted to combine a modern look with a historical feel that will allow new construction to merge with existing architecture at the high school/Washington Elementary campus.

One of the largest changes to the plan is moving the high school science lab addition from the east to the north side of the building. The proposal includes a brick and stone front with towered entrances similar to the outside of the current 1923 structure, which will preserved and on display in an atrium that would be located indoors between the current outside wall and the science wing.

A similar tactic was used during a building project in 2003 which resulted in the outside of the Moore gymnasium being kept and visible indoors.

"Just like in the cafeteria where we saved the outside of Moore gym, it’s the same idea here. We save the outside of the originally 1923, so we have that going on in both places. It’s a pretty cool idea," said School Superintendent Vic Zimmerman.

The addition, along with a new gym to be constructed at the adjacent Washington Elementary, will definitely have modern architectural aspects — arched windows and sunlight flooding interiors when possible — but architect Carson Durham confirmed that the community’s desire to make sure new construction fit in with the historic nature of Monticello were taken into account.

He pointed to the new gym, to be added to Washington Elementary, which would include a large, domed window feature that would allow the 1,500 seat venue to "glow at night" when it welcomes fans, yet still includes an outdoor colonnade that shelters those same fans in a callback to yesteryear.

"We were trying to blend the old with the new. We understand you have a rich history here, as it relates to your existing architecture, but we also understand this is a new day. So materials we use will be brick and stone, introducing some traditional shapes with some of today’s features," said Durham.

One historic feature – the 1894 structure that currently serves a portion of the Washington Elementary student population – will be torn down as a part of the project. Because it its age, BLDD architect Bruce Maxey said both it and placing an addition in front of the 1923 high school will need approval from the Illinois Department of Historic Preservation.

Maxey said that can be a lengthy process, so he wanted to make sure the preliminary project plans fit the board’s desires prior to undertaking that effort.

"This exceeded my expectations on what to expect," said school board member Zach Hillard of the presentation, which included 27 pages of detailed estimates along with artists’ renderings and floor plans. "I’m completely happy."

"I love the way you catered to our desire to stay historic," added fellow board member Wendy Norvell.

Board members agreed that Maxey should get some of those preliminary efforts rolling, along with a conditional use permit and zoning variances that will be needed from the City of Monticello.

Maxey said the cost estimate that goes with the initial drawings is an estimated at $29,977,600, close to the $29,800,000 put before voters in November of 2017. The total includes about $3 million in "soft costs" that include technology and furnishings and about $2.44 million in contingencies.

Maxey called it "astounding" the first round of drawings came that close to being within the project budget.

Also outlined was a 14-classroom addition to Washington Elementary in order for it to house an additional two grades along with preschool offerings, resulting in the closure of the Lincoln Elementary building. The east-west oriented wing is proposed for south of the building front, with the gym located about 30 feet south of the new classrooms wing.

The gymnasium would also feature a lobby with a pair of connected multipurpose rooms that would have windows facing the football field area. Eighty additional parking places would be installed between the new gym and Kratz Road.

The gymnasium addition would also include locker rooms, restrooms and offices, which could double as a 650-person storm shelter in case of emergencies.

The two-year timeline for the overall project would include the demolition of old Washington next summer to make way for the Washington classroom addition. The effort would aim for a May of 2021 completion date to allow staff to move in and be ready for the start of the 2021-22 school year.

Add-ons discussed

While going through the preliminary design process, architects and construction managers also saw optional "program enhancements" which could be taken care of more easily now than down the road. They could include extending the stage in Miller Gym to accommodate larger musical groups, additional auditorium upgrades that could include the addition of a 110-seat balcony, and infrastructure upgrades including air conditioning for the current gymnasiums, extensive window replacement and new bleachers for Miller gym.

Totaling around $4 million, Zimmerman felt at least some were worth considering, and outlined options that could accomplish the task without an added tax impact for property owners.

"We know we’re going to get about $1.2 or $1.3 million in interest on our (bond) investments. From Health/Life Safety to do the windows, we could get another million," said Zimmerman, who also outlined about another $1 million in the project that could be cut or at least delayed, including air conditioning for Miller and Moore gyms, a high school entry element, and new bleachers for Miller.

Noting that reduces the $4 million to $1 million, Zimmerman noted it could be made up through existing fund balances, school facilities sales tax proceeds, and/or purchasing additional bonds that could be paid back through future sales tax proceeds.

"I think we ought to try to find a way to find that extra million dollars and get the job done," he added.

Board members will meet in another special session Sept. 17 to get an update from architects and project engineers.

Bids are expected to go out by the end of February of 2019, with bids being awarded in April and the construction portion of the project starting next June.