The new wellness center for Duneland faculty and staff may be ready by next
fall after the school board awarded a bid on Tuesday, to the
Valparaiso-based Vendramini Construction, of $251,900 to complete the
renovation work at the former Instructional Materials Center at 411 S. Fifth
Discussions of the project have been going on for almost a year now,
Duneland Superintendent of Schools Dirk Baer said, after the school
corporation entered into a two-year agreement with Novia CareClinics of
Indianapolis as its wellness provider last November, as recommended by its
employee benefits committee.
Baer said the goal of having a wellness center is to help the school system
lower its health insurance costs by promoting healthier lifestyles.
NoviaCare would provide primary and preventive care, limited laboratory
work, and chronic disease management. It will be free to use for
participants in Duneland’s Healthcare program.
School officials have pushed to use the 5,700 sq. ft. IMC building, which
has been vacant for about three years, as a wellness center and garnered a
variance from the Chesterton Board of Zoning Appeals in February.
The first round of bids were rejected by the board when they came in “much
higher than anticipated,” but opted to re-bid the project.
Duneland collected seven bids the second go-around with the base bids
ranging from $244,000 to $331,000.
Baer said the board has the choice to use $155,000 in a rainy day fund to
cover the remaining costs and personally recommended accepting the amount
for the remodel over the other option, which is to rent space at a venue not
owned by the DSC.
“The rainy day money is supposed to be there for these purposes. We still
own the facility. We are going to have to do something with it in time,”
Board President Mike Trout said he supports Baer’s recommendation as it has
also been talked about with the employee benefits committee. He said its
“unfortunate” that the budget was not “right on,” but that is to be expected
with any remodeling project.
Member Ralph Ayres added that the IMC is centrally located for staff to use
and said he is “very impressed” so far with Novia CareClinics. Fellow board
member John Marshall supported the effort as a way for DSC to better manage
its health care costs.
On the fence was member Ronald Stone who said he was “torn between” using
the rainy day fund or renting a facility elsewhere, but said he was glad to
see the lower bids came in.
More certain in her opposition was board member Kristin Kroeger who felt it
would be better to rent a space for two years and see what the healthcare
costs savings are at that time. DSC could by that time have funds ready to
complete the remodeling.
“I think it is more cautious to wait and see on the healthcare fund,” she
Ayres said that new legislation passed in the Indiana Assembly allows any
property left unused by a public school corporation for two years to be
available for charter schools to request use of, so keeping the IMC building
vacant could result in losing it.
Since the rainy day fund does not have a permanent funding stream, Assistant
Superintendent of Operations Dave Pruis said a public hearing would be
needed prior to board approval.
The board opened the public hearing. No one came forward to speak.
The board then proceeded with the vote to accept the lowest bidder,
Vendramini, with a base amount of $244,000 and two alternative bids --
$1,200 for additional roof insulation and $6,700 for painting the exterior
The vote was 4-1 with Kroeger dissenting.
Architect Bob Gerometta, of Gerometta & Kinel in Chesterton, said some
touch-ups have already been made to a vestibule and other things such as a
few new windows to add more natural light. One of the restrooms will be made
ADA compliant, he said.
Other features will include a canopy entrance, a patient waiting area, exam
rooms, a lounge for staff, medical record storage and extra space for a
possible physical therapy area in the future.
Gerometta said he expects the work to take two to three months, putting it
on track for completion in August or September.
In a separate matter Tuesday, the board voted unanimously in favor of
approving a policy that decrees personal communication devices such as cell
phones, smartphones, and computers are not to be seen or heard during school
hours or at after-school activities, including on buses to and from school.
Only “under certain circumstances” a principal may allow a student to keep
his or her PCD on, the policy reads.
Violators may see their devices confiscated and would need their
parent/guardian to retrieve the item from the school office.