Officials seek expansion of high school parking lot
The Fairfield school board Monday set a public hearing and bid letting at 7 p.m. Sept. 16, for a new parking lot at Fairfield High School.
The public, board members and district staff will review the project and specifications designed by French-Reneker Associates Inc. of Fairfield that evening.
The parking lot was first proposed to the school board in June and approved in July. The upcoming high school renovation project, expected to begin in the spring, will cut 35 parking spaces from the west parking lot.
Auxiliary Services Director Fred McElwee and Superintendent Art Sathoff proposed building an additional parking lot with 47 spaces between the current west parking lot and the old tennis courts.
During board discussions in June, it was suggested by a few board members to address the south parking lot across Broadway Avenue at the front of the building.
The project now encompasses building a new paved lot as first proposed and paving the driveway/approach to the south parking lot to mitigate water run-off. An alternate in the bid package will include paving the south parking lot.
It will depend on the contractors’ bids whether the district can afford to pave the south parking lot as well as building a new west lot.
Two of three invited fuel vendors presented information to the school board work session Monday.
McElwee had asked the board earlier this summer to approve a vehicle fuel request for proposal for school year 2013-14. Board member Bob Waugh had raised the question about purchasing diesel fuel at rack prices (a daily price set as a commodity price by fuel terminals) rather than the district’s former practice of spot fuel purchasing as needed.
During last school year, McElwee switched from spot fuel purchasing to buying fuel from Brighton vendor Cobb Oil Company at oil terminal rack prices plus a delivery charge.
“Spot delivery and Fuel Rack Pricing are very close in price, about a 1-cent difference in pricing,” McElwee said. “With FRP, the supplier keeps our tank full. The transportation office doesn’t have to go out for bids every three to four weeks for fuel. Spot delivery requires calling around for bids and delivery charges every three to four weeks. With FRP, we know the set charge for delivery in our budget.”
The district has a 14,000-gallon above ground fuel storage tank. The district typically uses an average of 49,000 gallons of fuel annually, said McElwee.
“Switching the way we purchase fuel came about out of wanting to save money,” Sathoff said. “We can’t control the price of fuel; it’s a variable, but we can kind of control the delivery costs.”
McElwee invited Cobb Oil, Farmer’s Co-op and Farm Service to present proposals to the school board.
“FS intended to be here, but had a conflict come up and can’t make it,” said McElwee. “We have done business with all three vendors.”
Deb Swan, office manager and Jason Schinstock, refined fuel sales and service, from Farmers Cooperative Association in Libertyville, said Farmers Coop would deliver premium diesel, not No. 2 diesel, to the Fairfield school district. It would charge the base price of the rack price at the Fort Madison terminal plus 6-cents per gallon, covering delivery charges and profit.
Swan had a printout of Fort Madison terminal base prices from Wednesday. The premium diesel, named RubyFieldMaster, was $3.2740 per gallon that day and the ULSD15 No. 1 dyed diesel, which the co-op blends with RubyFieldMaster for winter use, was $3.4065 Wednesday in Fort Madison.
For comparison, Iowa City fuel terminal price on Wednesday was $3.2765 for RubyFieldMaster diesel fuel.
“Fort Madison terminal is typically a bit lower than Iowa City,” said Swan. “We buy 95 percent of our fuel from the Fort Madison terminal.”
Harmony School District is one of their customers, said Swan.
A 24-hour notice of a delivery needed is good, said Schinstock, but same-day delivery also is possible. The delivery is 3,500 gallons at a time.
Since diesel can gel in cold temperatures, Farmers Co-op does its own blending of RubyFieldMaster and ULSD15 No. 1 dyed diesel, either 50/50 or 40/60 depending on how cold temperatures are. No chemical additives are used.
“The rack price guarantees a set price, I can understand that,” said Waugh. “I think we should support local suppliers. They pay taxes in the county.”
Owner Mark Cobb and sales manager Steve Roberts of Cobb Oil Co. gave a brief history of fuel markets to the school board Monday.
“Ten years ago or more, it was efficient to contract for fuel,” said Cobb. “Not anymore. Pricing can’t trend now, there’s no history of trend prices. A more consistent way to ensure a good price is an index. Fuel is a commodity.
“The largest fuel terminal in Iowa is in Des Moines, so we use the rack price provided by Iowa Department of Transportation, which is an average of all the state’s terminal prices,” said Cobb.
“We can pull from 16 suppliers at rack price, and add delivery and profit costs,” he said. “We pick up fuel in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids and Ottumwa.
“We would charge you 1.4-cents [per gallon] delivery charge above the Des Moines rack price,” said Cobb.
Waugh asked if he was talking about premium diesel.
Cobb said they deliver diesel No. 2 fuel, and for winter use, blend No. 1 and No. 2 diesel at about 20/80 and chemical additives. The chemical additives add 2-cents per gallon.
McElwee shared Monday’s Des Moines terminal rack price for No. 2 dyed diesel — $3.229.
“To my knowledge, no school districts use premium diesel,” said Cobb.
“Van Buren school district does, and Harmony,” said Waugh, a school bus driver for Van Buren. “Can fuels have soy blended and not have disclosure?”
Cobb said up to 5 percent biodiesel can be added without disclosure and the fuel still be labeled as No. 2 diesel.
In discussion after vendors had left, Waugh was skeptical that rack pricing saves the district money.
“There’s more than meets the eye about the Des Moines rack price,” he said. “It’s an average of all the terminals in the state, provided by IDOT and it’s one more way the government is involved. I think FRP is one more way the government gets involved in business.”
Fuel purchasing action will be taken at the next regular school board meeting in September.
“People need to vote Sept. 10,” said board member Jeri Kunkle.
School board elections are Sept. 10, with polls open noon to 8 p.m.