Construction of new Ennis school on schedule

The new school in Ennis will include a community room with large windows overlooking the football field. The first phase of the new building is underway and slated to be done this spring.   Photo by Greg Lemon

The new school in Ennis will include a community room with large windows overlooking the football field. The first phase of the new building is underway and slated to be done this spring. Photo by Greg Lemon

This summer has seen a buzz of activity at the Ennis school complex as construction on the new elementary school got underway.

Now, as summer winds down and school begins Wednesday, both school and construction officials are pleased with the progress on the new building.

“We’re trying to get all the heavy stuff done by the time the kids get here on Wednesday,” said Jerry Galvin, project manager with Langlas and Associates, which is the general contractor for the project.

Galvin is a ball of energy, bouncing through the construction site like a running back moving around tacklers. He talks fast, walks faster but has a firm handle on the construction schedule and the massive project.

The project is right on schedule, Galvin said. The plan is to have the entire building sealed in by the time the snow flies this fall and kids into the building right after spring break.

The construction is in phase one of a two-phase project. The final phase should be completed by spring 2012, said Ennis School Superintendent Doug Walsh.

The project is slated to cost about $9 million.

Recently, controversy has swirled around the construction of the building. The Ennis School Board is funding the entire project with money they’ve been able to save over the past six years. Much of the money has been saved in the school district’s adult education fund.

Two weeks ago, the Montana Office of Public Instruction issued a letter to Madison County deputy attorney Chris McConnell in response to a request from the county for a special audit of the school district’s budget. The OPI letter said the school district was legal in the way they’ve funded the new building, but needs to be sure the building is used for adult education once it is completed.

The new school was also the subject of controversy last spring when local contractors failed to secure any of the bids for the new building. However, Loren Cantrell, the construction manager with Langlas Construction for the project, promised to work with local contractors on the project.

And so far, he’s followed through on his promise, said Jamie Lovett, with Lovett Construction in Ennis.

Lovett Construction was hired as a subcontractor for some of the framing work on the first phase of the project. The company currently has about 10 employees working on the job, Lovett said.

Cantrell called Lovett Construction about two weeks after the bids were awarded and worked with the company on the subcontract, she said.

Other local companies working on the building include High Caliber Concrete and Madison Lumber Company, which has provided much of the lumber for the building, Galvin said.

The next phase of the construction project will begin as soon as the children are in the new building in the spring and will include asbestos mitigation and demolition of the old elementary school, Walsh said.

In addition to the new construction, the school district has also replaced old boilers in the high school this summer with new high-efficiency propane boilers, which are functional now and will serve the high school and part of the new construction when it’s completed, he said.

Walsh is also going to be giving tours of the new construction to civic groups in town this fall. Anyone wishing to have a tour of the buildings can call Walsh at 682-4258.

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