Bay eyes millage to fund project

ESCANABA — Members of the Bay College Board of Trustees received an update on a proposed multimillion-dollar deferred maintenance project at a special meeting Monday. The college plans on seeking a millage to fund the project.

Board members heard from representatives of Johnson Controls — the energy services company the college is working with to implement an energy performance contract. Bay released a request for qualifications for an energy service company in January.

Recently, Johnson Controls employees have been working to determine what improvements could be made to the college’s infrastructure and to prioritize potential improvements.

“They have spent months here with us,” Bay College President Laura Coleman said.

Johnson Controls has been working at both Bay’s Escanaba campus and its Iron Mountain campus.

Representatives of Johnson Controls presented the board with a list of the potential improvements they considered high-priority. The improvements in question focused on safety/security and modernization, with the latter category including improvements to energy efficiency and sustainability.

For safety/security, Vice President of Operations Christine Williams said the college’s goal is to ensure its equipment and systems are capable of adequately responding to emergency situations. In regards to modernization, Williams said Bay is looking into the possibility of establishing a system that could control infrastructure across all of its buildings.

HVAC systems, lighting, air handling systems, fire safety systems and boilers could be included in the project. Many of the pieces of equipment that may be repaired, refurbished or replaced as part of the project were said to be between 25 and 30 years old.

“They’ve been maintained so well, and they haven’t had to be replaced. They’re well beyond their useful lifespan … now it’s time to modernize,” Williams said.

The specific improvements that would be included in the project have not yet been determined. However, possible improvements to all Bay College buildings are under consideration.

“We’re still relatively early,” Ronald Stimac of Johnson Controls said regarding the current status of efforts related to the deferred maintenance project.

The college plans to go out for a millage request in support of the project and other initiatives, Coleman said. Though a rate for the

millage request has not yet been set, she said Bay is aiming for the request to be under one mill ($1 per $1,000 of taxable value).

Currently, Bay’s operating millage is levied at a rate of 3.5 mills ($3.50 per $1,000 of taxable value). The millage request would be in addition to this.

Other potential funding sources for the project include Tax Exempt Lease Purchase funding and grants.

Though the proposed project has not yet been bid out, meeting attendees had mixed emotions about the possibility of spending millions of dollars on deferred maintenance work.

Coleman said she believed funding the project as a whole would be the college’s best option.

“The idea of doing it piecemeal, while it is tempting… you end up spending a whole lot more money than if you just get about the business of getting it done,” she said.

Secretary Philip Strom felt differently.

“In any other operational sense, you don’t necessarily have the means to fix everything all at once,” he said.

Strom also asked about the potential inclusion of work in the Hub and other recently-updated college spaces in the project. In response to this, Williams noted some of the proposed work in these spaces would be done on utilities connected to other campus areas.

A timetable has not been set for the majority of work included in the project.

“There are certain projects that we will be starting on this summer,” Williams said.

These include the installation of a new roof and additional insulation at the Student Center. Bay aims to finish this work before the fall 2019 semester begins.

According to Stimac, more information about the project — including concrete numbers — should be available later in the summer.

“Right now, we’re looking at mid-July,” he said.

The board’s next special meeting is set for noon today. At the meeting, a public hearing on Bay’s proposed 2019-20 budget will take place.

COMMENTS