The north wing of the old Nikiski Elementary School will stand for at least one more winter.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough recently completed additional analysis of the unoccupied section of the building. The re-evaluation showed that demolition of the north wing of the building is still the best option in accordance with the results of a 2007 analysis.
However, the borough has decided not to move forward with the demolition plans because the KPB School District and local companies have expressed interest in the currently vacant portion of the facility, according to a laydown memo from Borough Mayor Mike Navarre to the borough assembly.
KPBSD Board of Education president Joe Arness said he could see the portion of the building utilized for vocational educational programs.
“With the … expansion of the (oil and gas) industry out north, it was just an idea that ran into my head that, ‘Hey, there is some classroom space,’” he said. “Maybe that industry can use it, maybe the district can use it toward that purpose and whether or not that will happen or is even logical I don’t know. It’s just an idea.”
Arness said moving forward his plan is to speak with people in the oil and gas industry and discuss their needs as well as talk with local state representatives about state support.
“The building for whatever use is going to require some real money put into it to make it legal and habitable,” he said. Arness is optimistic that the state or federal government could provide some funding.
He said the district has discussed increasing its involvement in hands-on training for high school students and recent graduates and thinks the industry is interested in seeing more wide-spread training opportunities for potential employees.
With the Nikiski Community Recreation Center occupying the south portion of the building, Arness said if the north wing can be utilized, it would have to be worked out with the center.
While potential industry growth could lead to the district needing another school in the Nikiski area, Arness said he doesn’t think it would be feasible to revert the building back into an elementary school.
Navarre said the project will likely go out to bid in February or March if the borough doesn’t receive a sensible proposal for the space before then.
“We’ve got several months before it’s put out to bid again,” Navarre said. “So what it would have to be is sort of a feasible plan for use of the space that includes the cost associated with renovating it or at least being willing to pay for the operating costs so that the borough doesn’t have to pay for those costs moving forward.”
Navarre said with the fall and winter seasons approaching, the project costs could be impacted if the borough were to move forward at this point.
Renovations for the occupied portion of the building, which includes re-roofing and re-siding, will also be put off until spring of 2015.
Navarre said anyone who has an interest in the space can contact the borough.
“If it makes sense, we’ll consider it,” he said.
According to a market analysis referenced in the Nikiski Elementary Facility Management Plan Addendum, the building has a rental value of a 7,500-square-foot area at $0.63 per square foot.
The project went out to bid last month for the demolition of the north wing and renovation of the utilized section of the building. At a July assembly meeting, the body accepted and appropriated a $500,000 state grant for project. Following public comment opposing the demolition at the meeting, Navarre said the administration would re-evaluate its recommendation.
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