A big pile of problems

School Board reconsiders option for ‘Dirt Mountain’ at high school
The cost of dealing with the mountain of dirt at Kaneland High School is turning out to be more than the School Board bargained for. A study recently conducted by Manhard Consulting explored two options for removing the pile of dirt left from the construction of the school auditorium: re-spreading the soil around the school property or hauling it away.

The cost to spread the stockpile of dirt on-site would be $374,357 versus $319,770 to pay someone to take it away.

Board members expressed concern over the amounts, especially when the district would be paying interest on the money spent.

“There’s not a huge difference in cost for (option) one or two,” board member Cheryl Krauspe said. “They’re both costing us significant money.”

“I have a problem with purchasing bonds for things that are not capital projects,” Board President Lisa Wiet said.

Board member Bob Myer suggested that a third option would be to do nothing.

However, Superintendent Charlie McCormick said that the dirt would have to be removed at some point.

“If not now, when?” McCormick asked. “It’s not cost-free to keep it. There isn’t $300,000 in our operating budget to deal with it.”

He said that unless the district takes care of it now, it may be another 10 years before the district has the funds to fix it.

The pile of dirt, located near the high school, was left over when the high school auditorium was built. The plan then was to use the soil during the construction of the Harter Middle School.

However, the dirt turned out not to be suitable on which to build a structure. For the past several years, the mountain of dirt has remained on the high school grounds.

When the estimates for the costs for the construction of the middle school came in at about $9 million less than anticipated this spring, the board began to prioritize a list of potential site and construction projects, should they decide to go ahead with the full bond sale amount.

The removal of the dirt pile was one item on the list of potential projects. Board members said on Monday that, other than the unsightly look of the pile, they do not have a good understanding of the potential impact that removing the dirt pile would have on drainage issues on the property.

“We’re just not educated on this issue,” Wiet said. “It’s been out there for two years, and the only reason we’re considering it is, the list of projects we put together because of the extra money.”