SALT LAKE CITY — After a recent flood in the offices of the Utah State Board of Education resulted in evacuation of the building and loss of staff time, a board member Thursday questioned whether renovations to the aging facility are tantamount to "throwing good money after bad."
Board member Linda Hansen said the board had in the recent past approved upgrades to restrooms and more recently authorized renovations to its special education section offices.
"It seems to me since I have been aware of this building the past 15 years, people have been asking, 'When we're going to get a new building?' I'm wondering when it comes to the point of we're throwing good money after bad with this building," she said.
According to Salt Lake County Assessor Office records, the building was constructed in 1975 and is in "average" condition. A request for more information about the building from the Division of State Facilities and Construction Management was not immediately accommodated.
The board has occupied the building at 250 E. 500 South for multiple decades, and over the years it has received a number of upgrades to comply with accessibility laws, life/safety issues, system upgrades and function.
Deputy State Superintendent of Operations Scott Jones said the board pays no rent or lease fees for the state-owned building, "basically just the O and M (operations and maintenance) rate, which is almost unheard of."
The building flood occurred March 29, a day there was heavy precipitation, a rain and snow mix, Jones said.
"There was a loss of power, which incurred a loss of the pump system that clears the septic tank where all the waste was near the point of overflowing. The decision to close the building was one in line for the standards of health and was with the recommendation of an independent party, the Division of State Facilities and Construction Management," Jones said.
The total cost of salaries and benefits for the evacuation period was about $26,000, Jones said.
"That particular incident was an exception," he said.
Hansen again queried: "Is it better to get a new building or just keep repairing this one?"
The board's financial officers have analyzed the costs and benefits, Jones said.
"We are in an economic boom, so to speak. Lease rates and ownership rates far exceed any amount that we will pay as far as the identified capital improvements are by anywhere between eight to 16 times what we're putting into this, depending on what the location of the new building would be," Jones said.2 comments on this story
State School Board chairman Mark Huntsman reminded the board that it has no bonding authority, unlike local school districts.
The board receives state general funds administered through the state Division of State Facilities and Construction Management for building upgrades or renovations, as do other state agencies.
It also used its discretionary funds for capital improvements, Jones said.
"The building sits on a creek bed, so it's necessary to make sure water is kept out of those elevator shafts," Jones said.