George Leary, superintendent of Moundridge Schools, remembers the first phone call that started the district on a journey.
He was convinced someone was trying to pull a scam. A phone call claiming an anonymous corporate client was wanting to make a large donation to the school district. No other details about the donor were given, nor are they available.
Leary used internet search engines to check out who was making the calls and the law firms checked out, with strong credentials.
“It was worth it to follow it up,” Leary said. “Everyone was very professional and never said anything to make me think (it was a scam), it was just my own cautionary attitude about things like that. If someone wanted to give you $1 million, would you have reason to pause?”
Leary created a plan to replace light fixtures across the district, with a hefty price tag. An upcoming bond issue — set for a February election by mail — contained more than $500,000 for lighting improvements to the three buildings operated by the district. The plan he gave to the legal team, with estimates by Vogts Construction of Newton, was for nearly double that.
“He said, 'you will run out of light fixtures before my client runs out of money,'” Leary said. “... When we went for this, we shot the moon. We have the excellent LED light fixtures, new wiring to the switches and occupancy switches.”
The gift award was approved — more than $998,000. The work is scheduled to happen over the course of the next two summers. The district will replace more than 1,700 light fixtures in addition to adding occupancy detectors, room controllers and wall switches.
“We cannot do all of this in one summer, and it has to be done during summertime,” Leary said. “It can not be done during the school year. It is huge.”
The new fixtures will be high efficiency LED fixtures, which will save the district on utility costs — which is something that the upcoming bond issue is designed to do with new windows and other building improvements. If the February bond passes, the bond work and donation work will occur at the same time.
Moundridge spends about $130,000 a year on utilities.
“We know with the whole project, not just the lights, the architects say we will save between 20 to 25 percent,” Leary said.
And that work will occur whether or not the district passes the next bond issue in February. The district is seeking a $14.885 million bond. The previous two bond asks were $23.8 million and $20.9 million.
“We have failed two bond elections,” Leary said. “We are scaling back on everything — eliminating some and cutting others in half — to get something palatable that will pass. We cut back on light fixtures.”