District plans a new use for an old building

This site concept shows where USD 410 would locate its work in the former AMPI building. Click image to enlarge.

Accommodating other proposed facility changes and saving taxpayer money are the key reasons the USD 410 Board of Education is looking to an old building as the new location for its central office and transportation and maintenance services, officials say.

The district plans to relocate its central office from the elementary school campus and the transportation and maintenance services from the high school campus at the city-owned Hills?boro Busi?ness Development Complex.

The project will take about one-third of the expansive facility that is more commonly known as the former AMPI building, located at Ash and Third streets in northwest Hillsboro.

?Moving into the AMPI building is just the result of wanting to help traffic flow at the high school by removing all those buses and replacing the oldest building we have in the district,? said Superintendent Gordon Mohn.

The board explored constructing a facility at a new site, but the cost for construction was estimated in excess of $1 million.

?Originally, the architects suggested we create a transportation facility, a new one,? Mohn said. ?It had an $850,000 price tag on it, and it would only take care of our bus issue. It wouldn’t do anything for a central office or maintenance storage.

?I think it would be really hard to sell the public on spending almost a $1 million on a building to park buses,? he added. ?Even though you can have it make sense in your mind, spending $1 million to do that is a long way from serving kids.?

Moving to the city-owned AMPI property was not an immediate sell for Mohn or the board.

?My first walk-through there was, ?This will never work,?? Mohn said. ?Because we were going to do bus transportation back there where they used to unload tankers on the east side of the building. It has a slanted floor and doesn?t have a decent roof.?

But he said the outlook improved dramatically when the district was given the option of moving its offices into the west side side of the facility, which were used originally as offices and is currently used by the Hillsboro Police Department and Kansas Highway Patrol.

The space designated for bus maintenance and storage is adjoining the office area.

The area USD 410 would occupy will require significant remodeling by the district. The bond election would designate $475,000 for that purpose.

?Yes, that?s a lot of money, but what we get over spending $800,000 (for a transportation facility only) is plenty of bus maintenance area, we get additional storage and we get a central office so we don?t have to build classrooms (at the elementary school),? Mohn said.

He said the board did consider locating its central office downtown.

?If we did that and moved buses out (to AMPI) and storage somewhere else, we?re all spread out,? Mohn said. ?This keeps us at one place.

?Then, another thing I like about it then, is that it becomes a service to the community. We?ll dress (the building) up, we?ll make it look nice, we?ll keep it clean looking. We?ll want it to be a nice entrance to Hillsboro.?

Having the district occupy the building through a long-term lease with the city would make a good use of the facility from the city?s perspective.

?The city got a good deal when they bought it,? Mohn said. ?But the scary thing for all of us in this community is we spent $75,000 to buy a $10 million building that would take $6 million to demolish if we don?t keep somebody in it.

?We?ve got to find a good use for it.?

Both Mohn and USD 410 Board President Rod Koons said the fire that occurred in the building last Wednesday should not affect the district?s plan to occupy the structure if the bond issues passes.

?We are held to some pretty high standards by the state architect and people like that,? Koons said. ?There?s a lot of people we have to please as far as moving there.

?But according to what we know today, our plan is the same as it was,? he added. ?Tomorrow that may be different, but it looks like any damage that may be there isn?t going to affect where we are going to be at.

?Part of our plan is to do some pretty extensive remodeling anyway,? Koons said. ?I don?t think this (fire) really affects that.

?Last Wednesday, I might have a different answer,? he added. ?But from what we know now, that still looks to be our best option.?

Next week: Financing and election strategy.

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