NEW BUFFALO — The New Buffalo Area Schools Board of Education chose the path forward for an Elementary kitchen and cafeteria design project during its Sept. 26 meeting.

The Board unanimously voted to approve “Option 2” after hearing details of three design proposals Mike Gallavan of Tower Pinsker Group (his firm developed the options while working with Food Service Director Patty Iazzetto and her team).

Gallavan stressed that the designs are all “very conceptual” and that after the board voted on which one to move forward with, a more detailed design and cost estimate would be provided for review.

The Option 2 design includes a complete remodel of the existing kitchen. In addition, the kitchen prep area would be expanded to 850 square feet, storage space would be increased to 800 square feet and the serving area would total 425 square feet. A space for an office (which is very important for after-school programs) was also part of this design.

The overall architectural look of the building would be enhanced – columns and windows added for a totally new appearance.

The estimated time from delivery of materials to work completion would be 7 to 8 months at a cost of approximately $4.3 million.

Iazzetto said go the chosen design option, “there will be ample room and work and a dedicated space to do our job. Currently, we are cramped when we receive a large delivery but with this space we will have room to manage a large load of boxes without interrupting food preparation.”

She also noted that deliveries are currently made through the prep area and if the weather is bad, drivers walk through with wet and dirty shoes. With Option 2, deliveries will come directly to the storage area.

The addition of five tables and 72 dining spaces was also considered positive by both Iazzetto and Superintendent Dr. Michael Lindley.

The major negative with this option appears to be the timing (construction is expected to begin in early 2024 with anticipated completion by the fall of 2024) .

“Fall of 2024 is very far out and if the work is not completed by then, we will be scrambling to find space (and a kitchen) to feed our kids,” Iazzetto said.

Option 1 was basically a kitchen expansion including a small addition for a cooler and freezer and a complete remodel of the current kitchen. Option 3 included the design and construction of a totally new kitchen, storage area and office and an expansion of the current cafeteria.

Also on Sept. 26, the board received an update of the STEAM Building project from Mike Kounelis, Vice President at The Skillman Corporation. Kounelis began by stating, “everything is tracking on schedule. The completion date is targeted for the week of November 21 – right before Thanksgiving.”

He reported that the interior portion of the building is in the “final finishes” stage which includes drywall, painting and floor finishes.

“A lot of revisions have been made by the architectural firm and staff and everyone has cooperated to make sure we meet our target,” Kounelis said.

Kounelis also noted that, “pickleball was a high priority and I’m pleased to see that the courts are already being used regularly.”

He mentioned that the pavilion has been completed, but there are a few items left on the “punch-list” which will be addressed in the next few weeks.

When board member Chuck Heit inquired about the new skate park and basketball court, Kounelis responded saying, “the concrete has been poured and the equipment has been delivered.” He foresees that this part of the project will also be completed in the next few weeks.

The Sept. 26 meeting kicked-off with an Audit Presentation for the 2021-2022 School Year by Patrick Sage, senior manager, Kruggel Lawton & Company, LLC. Sage began his presentation stating that “everything in the audit is accurate and stated correctly.”

He went on to give a few financial highlights from the detailed audit report titled “New Buffalo Area Schools Financial Report with Supplementary Information, June 30, 2022.” The report is available to the public in the Superintendent’s office.

Highlights include: The general operations fund total revenues were approximately $18 million at the end of 2022 versus $15 million from the prior audit; The general fund has a balance of $4,714,000 – equivalent of 33 percent of operational costs which Sage confirmed is a healthy but not overly aggressive position; All work has been completed within stated missions and goals and the financials are considered “good.”

Sage closed his brief presentation by giving special thanks to Business Manager Pano Arvanitis and the Board of Education for their attention to the budget and cooperation with the audit.

In other September 26 business, the New Buffalo Area Schools Board of Education approved:

• The purchase of Machine Shop Equipment for the STEAM building.

• Conference attendance for Patricia Newton at the MASSP Women’s Summit in Grand Rapids, MI.

• The following winter coaches for 2022-2023 basketball season: Middle School Boys – 7th Grade/Conner Lijewski; 8th Grade/Nate Jones; Middle School Girls – 7th Grade/Natalie Walter; 8th Grade/Jessica Conrad-Voss; High School Boys – Varsity/Nate Tripp; High School Girls – Varsity/Dave Kelly, Junior Varsity/Lisa Price.

At the end of the meeting, Vanessa Thun and Denise Churchill each took the podium to announce their respective candidacy for the NBAS Board of Education. Both candidates introduced themselves to the board and audience and gave their reasons for running.

Todd Tanksley (who is also a candidate) gave a special thank-you to the Board for overseeing the construction of the STEAM building.

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