Changes on the cheap come for Coe Building

July 20, 2011

Last summer every school building in the Hood River County School District received something new and exciting - new classrooms, library, science rooms or whole additions - thanks to funding from the 2008 construction bond levy.

But the Coe Building - home of the Community Education program - had to be happy with a few energy upgrades and some parking lot lights.

Now the 96-year-old building is getting some attention, though not on the same scale as its sister buildings in the district: It's getting some rearrangement of the interior to accommodate a new server room for the district's technology services.

"Last summer we had a power outage at the district office that shut off the antiquated cooling system - a home window air conditioner - in our computer server room," Schools Superintendent Charlie Beck said. "As a result we lost some very expensive computer hardware; and in addition we lost access to our data systems until a remedy could be patched together.

"When we realized that we needed a redundant cooling system for our computer equipment and network hardware, we discovered that moving tech services to the basement of the Coe Building was our best option," he said.

The project is being done as inexpensively as possible, Beck said.

"We are doing the move with mostly in-house labor and much of the material is coming from leftover building supplies that have been stored at the Odell warehouse since the 2003 and 2009 bonds," he said.

The new server room is going to be located in the area that used to be the stairwell of the front entrance. The staircase was removed and a new floor installed that creates a new conference room upstairs in what was formerly "wasted space," according to Facilities Manager Randall Johnston.

The server room will be sandwiched between two new handicapped-accessible bathrooms.

"Eventually the whole building will be ADA accessible," Johnston said, "but since we were moving the bathrooms, it makes sense to make those changes now."

Johnston said that wherever possible, original materials are being reused or repurposed, such as door casings and railings; not only to save money but to preserve the building's original look. And, as Beck said, surplus materials from previous projects have been used wherever possible.

"This carpet is 20 years old, but still brand-new," he said, pointing out the new computer training room for Community Ed. Indeed, the new-old carpet still fills the room with the familiar new-carpet smell. "It was leftover from a project and has been in storage all this time," he said.

The floor in the repair area was done in garage-floor fashion: painted and sprinkled with colored flecks. "That's how inexpensive we're going," Johnston said.

The Community Ed office is moving to the opposite corner of the building, and other areas are being changed to improve efficiency of the whole building.

"It will be a much more functional space," Johnston said.

Beck said that there will be a few other upgrades done, as well.

"We are updating some electrical and possibly some HVAC systems that make sense at this time," he said. "The technology facilities upgrade dollars are coming from our system development taxes levied on new construction (Building Excise Tax Fund)."

Johnston said the project is scheduled to be done over the summer and should be finished by fall.

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