D86 addresses equipment upgrade backlog

Hinsdale Central and Hinsdale South campuses are in the process of getting long deferred improvements.

Now the Hinsdale High School District 86 Board wants to change out deteriorating equipment like drivers education simulators and snow removal vehicles for more functional models.

Board members approved the purchase of replacement capital equipment totaling $2.35 million at their March 25 meeting. Chief Financial Officer Josh Stephenson said the time is right for such action — particularly with the budget savings related to schools being shut down during the pandemic — to both make the needed investment and put in place a system to avoid such urgent large-scale costs.

“It’s important, I think, to utilize this unique year financially to help dig us out of this hole we’ve been in with this capital equipment,” Stephenson said. “We need to make sure that departmental budgets can manage the capital equipment replacements on an annual basis as needed.”

The combined cost of new virtual driving simulators at Central and South is $230,000.

“The (current) simulators are extremely old. They’re extremely difficult to find anyone to repair them,” he said in recommending the modern versions.

New skid steers for snow removal at each campus cost $58,500 apiece, and a new pickup truck with a plow for Central is $50,000.

“We really do not want to enter another round of snow removal like we saw this year with our current equipment, because we experienced a number of failures with that equipment and kind of had to just manage the best we could,” Stephenson related.

The district will replace its 20-year-old dump truck for $78,000 and get a new bucket truck for $75,000 for the ability to do more tasks in-house, Stephenson explained, like changing the parking lot lights.

Board member Kathleen Hirsman praised the administration for the plan to get a better handle on equipment needs before they become critical.

“I am so impressed with this approach,” Hirsman said. “I’ve been on the board for six years, and I don’t think we’ve ever done something like this before where we’ve done this type of inventory.”

Stephenson also apprised board members of a lengthy list of obsolete musical instruments at South, some of which date back to the 1960s. Board President Kevin Camden cited that as an example of why a more proactive equipment replacement philosophy is prudent.

“We can’t just make decisions irrespective of what the dollar costs are,” Camden said. “ ‘Running to failure’ probably isn’t the best way to run capital plants and physical structures.”

Among the other capital items on the list for Central are eight fitness center elliptical machines estimated at a combined $23,192 and six additional security cameras for $13,680. The board also is equipping the schools’ sports venues with video scoreboards that will allow for greater sponsorship opportunities. Stephenson said the district would work with the schools’ booster and athletic clubs on the plan for the scoreboards, estimated at $312,217 at Central and $253,126 at South.

“There is potential for this to actually be a positive revenue generator for the district,” he said.

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean