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$14 million city project to be done by early 2020

SIERRA VISTA — A massive energy upgrade project for the city that would include everything from more efficient and powerful lights at municipal parks, to a new wave machine at the city pool, will be finished by early 2020, officials said Tuesday.

“Our construction schedule is 189 days,” Assistant City Manager Victoria Yarbrough said Wednesday of the city’s $14.8 million contract with Schneider Electric. “The closeout for all the projects is next spring. We’ll plan for conclusion by the middle of March.”

In the meantime, a new website informing the public of the progress being made by Schneider Electric at each individual undertaking will be launched by the city in the next few weeks, Yarbrough said Wednesday.

Additionally, there will be “marketing materials” at each construction site explaining “what’s going on,” she said. Informational banners also will be posted at city buildings such as the library and the community center.

“There isn’t much to update yet, but soon there will be,” Yarbrough said in an email Wednesday, referring to the planned website.

One of the most significant aspects of the improvements being undertaken by Schneider Electric is that the city will save about 22 percent in building utility costs, Yarbrough said at a work session earlier this year.

The projects slated include LED lighting upgrades in city buildings, HVAC (heating, ventilation and air conditioning) replacements and software that allows the city to monitor energy usage in its buildings. There are some pricier projects that are focused more on revenue generation rather than energy savings, Yarbrough said, such as LED lighting and artificial turf in some of the sports complexes, replacing the wave machine at The Cove and electrical upgrades at Veterans Memorial Park.

Workers already started installing LED lights last week in the interior and exterior of all city buildings, Yarbrough said. That project should be completed by December.

Here’s the rest of the work schedule:

• Two projects at the city’s aquatic park The Cove, to include replacement of the heating system and a new wave pool, will begin work in November and conclude in December or January

• putting down turf on three soccer fields at Cyr Center Park will start in September and be done by November

• putting down turf at two soccer fields at Domingo Paiz Park will start at the end of September and will be finished in February

• installation of lighting at all city sports fields has already started and will conclude in December

• replacement of all utility pedestals at Veterans Memorial Park, will start in October and finish in November

• an Environmental Operations Park aeration control upgrade — which will save energy with a real-time monitoring and control system for the denitrification process — will start in September and be done by October.

The money for the upgrades comes from “bonding through the Municipal Property Corp,” City Manager Chuck Potucek said in February. The bonds are “sales tax-based.”

Yarbrough also told members of the Sierra Vista City Council at a work session that the $14.8 million price tag for the multiple projects is a 10-year loan at 2.48 percent. She said the city can pay off the loan in seven years without getting penalized and will look to do so.

“The bonds are callable in seven years,” Yarbrough said. “So we can pay it (the loan) off in seven years. We will likely do that.”

Heading in the right direction: Test scores improve across SV district

SIERRA VISTA — With the academic year is in its infancy, Sierra Vista Unified School District administrators are working to give students and staff the resources they need for successful school year.

Terri Romo, assistant superintendent and curriculum & instruction director, gave two presentations to the board Tuesday night, focused on AzMERIT testing data and attendance policies.

Romo said the district has not yet received AzMERIT letter grades for individual schools or the final report for the district. She and her team compiled the data from the third grade, sixth grade, eighth grade, ninth grade Algebra I, as well as 10th grade English Language Arts tests.

Superintendent Kelly Glass said theses grades were selected because they are “significant transition grades” for the district and they show the “effectiveness of the K-2 program, the K-6 program and the K-8 program.”

Of the eight tests that were looked at, the district scored higher than the state average in six of them.

“We look at numbers, but these numbers represent the hard work from our staff and our students,” Romo said.

Pueblo del Sol had the largest increase in percentage from spring 2018 for both the third grade English Language Arts (ELA) and math tests. They rose 23 percent in ELA and 20 percent in math. Romo said having a strong K-2 program in all the schools will help the numbers even out across the schools and decrease the discrepancies across the district.

Bella Vista saw the largest increase, 17 percent, in the sixth grade ELA test. Joyce Clark Middle School finished 5 percent higher than the state on the ELA exam and 14 percent higher than the state on the math test. While the numbers are above the state average, Romo said the ELA score is a 10 percent decrease from when they took the exam as sixth graders.

“Our scores are increasing,” Glass said. “We’re not aiming to be at the state (level), we are aiming much higher than that.”

Administrators, including Romo and Glass, want to see the schools at 80 percent for each of the exams. While the goal is to perform well above the state average, Glass doesn’t want test scores to be the only metric when measuring their students.

“The test isn’t everything for us,” she said. “What’s most important is the cumulative knowledge (our students get) in 13 years in our public schools. While the stat uses this to judge us, we don’t use it to define us.”

As the district looks to boost test scores and a passion for learning, they are looking to the community to help promote why being in school is important. In her second presentation of the night, Romo introduced the board to new attendance policies officials are considering for the future to help lower the number of absences within the district.

She said nothing has been determined or finalized, but she wanted the board and the public to know what they are working on. The proposal included increased communication between principals and parents.

“It’s really going to take the entire school community and the community to push the importance of being in the classroom,” Glass said.

Romo said she plans to speak during a call to the public at a city council meeting to seek their support.

In other business, an extended discussion by the board ensued when board member Connie Johnson asked district staff what happened to an allotment of funds for board members used for travel when they were determining which of the five would be attending an upcoming conference.

During the meeting, Glass said the decision was made before she became superintendent.

Glass addressed the matter in an interview with the Herald/Review Wednesday, saying the allotment is typically something board members have but when she arrived the budget was already completed with the line item removed.

“The budget was already reduced before I got here,” Glass said. “If they went to a conference (last year), it was taken out of the superintendent budget.”

She added staff are looking into the matter, but want to make sure the emphasis is on putting as much money back into the classrooms as possible.