Architects hired for Ironton City Schools building project

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 17, 2005

If the push to renovate or rebuild Ironton City School facilities were a marathon, one could say two hurdles have been cleared and the finish line is looking closer

and closer.

Friday, the Ironton Board of Education hired two architectural firms that will partner in the design and construction of the new or renovated Ironton City Schools facilities.

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The board also agreed to place the levy to help pay for the project on this November's ballot, instead of waiting until next year to get voters' approval.

The partnership of Shawn Walker and Associates of Ashland, Ky., and Fanning/Howey Associates of Columbus was the unanimous choice selected from a field of three architectural candidates.

Fanning/Howey was the district's choice when the effort was made four years ago to obtain funding for new schools.

Ironton City Schools Superintendent Dean Nance said that firm

will actively participate in the campaign to get a local bond levy approved and has a phenomenal success rate in doing so: 20 out of the last 21 projects in which Fanning/Howey has been involved have made it from drawing board to reality.

"I think with any of the three firms, we could have had excellent schools," Nance said. "The other two had great track records. But I think what probably helped them was, the fact that they (Fanning/Howey) were able to help Portsmouth City Schools, a local district in a situation similar to ours, spoke volumes."

The addition of Ironton native Shawn Walker, who now heads his own architectural firm in neighboring Ashland, will mean more personal service and greater communication between the different entities, according to Bruce Runyon, who will act as Fanning/Howey's lead architect for the project.

"It's a big asset to the district particularly when we begin construction," Runyon said. "This will allow us to have someone in the district day in and day out."

Walker, a 1982 graduate of St. Joseph High School, said he is pleased with the partnership.

"It is always very exciting to be able to participate in a large project in my hometown," Walker said. "It is always a good feeling when local people take consideration of the product at home and put their trust in that."

Another hometowner will also participate in the project: Ironton High School graduate Brittany White, who is an architecture student at Ohio State University, is an intern with Walker and Associates.

SEM of Westerville and Lorenzo, Williams and Clinton of Dayton were the other two architectural candidates.

Nance said the next step in the project process is to form a community committee, which the architects will lead, to solicit community input on whether new buildings will be built or present ones renovated.

"The key is having a solution that the community can support," Nance said. "This can't be Dean Nance's plan or the school board's plan, it has to be the community's plan before we can put it on the ballot."

Once the levy is approved, the Ohio School Facilities Commission will assign a construction manager.

Typically, school projects require nine months to a year during the design and state approval phase before construction actually commences.

Nance said the major consideration is placing the bond levy before the voters is money.

"Probably the best argument for moving forward in '05 is the percentage paid (by the state) is locked in. The funding is locked in. There is no guarantee if we hold off a year because the state does not know from year to year how many districts it can serve," Nance said.

District officials were informed in March that the city system had made the list of

"next 20 projects" approved for OSFC monies.