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Posted on Mon, May 27, 2013 : 12:31 p.m.

Ann Arbor school board approves Balas server room renovations, video equipment purchase

By Danielle Arndt

The Ann Arbor Board of Education approved spending about $412,000 in technology bond money on renovations to the district's primary server room and on video distribution equipment.


The Balas Administration Building at 2555 S. State St. file photo

The board gave the OK Wednesday to move forward with redesigning the three makeshift and disjointed server rooms at the Balas Administration Building for a total cost of $159,300.

Ann Arbor Public Schools residents passed a millage proposal for the $45.8 million technology bond in May 2012.

The renovations will include addressing heating and cooling issues and mechanical problems in these rooms that causes the equipment to overheat.

The three rooms will be better engineered to create one distinct server room, one fiber closet and, if space allows, one small room for an office or conference room, according to documents from AAPS.

The original cost of the server room renovations was $8,500 more. However, the district reposted the electrical work involved in the project to receive a more competitive rate.

Bids were awarded to Rochester Hills' Diversified Construction Specialists, Inc. in the amount of $39,150 for the architectural work, Ann Arbor's Huron Valley Electric in the amount of $31,500 for electrical work, and another local company, Fuller Heating Company, in the amount of $88,650 for mechanical work.

The equipment and infrastructure housed in the server room at Balas controls most of the technology operations district wide. Another piece of equipment to control video distribution software across all schools will be added to the server room.

The cost of this equipment is $252,633 and its purpose will be to support the district's instructional technology initiatives.

Danielle Arndt covers K-12 education for Follow her on Twitter @DanielleArndt or email her at



Tue, May 28, 2013 : 4:22 p.m.

I may have to agree with the view shared by Randy Trent, the Executive Director of Physical Properties on this issue. The Server Room needs improvements to control temperature and centralization of equipment is required even when Balas Building reduces the number of administrators who currently work there. The idea of Technology Bond is not that of closing School Buildings and it is not about reducing teaching positions. Technology may improve the quality of instruction by providing additional tools and these funds must not be utilized for any other purpose like that of solving the problem of redrawing the district boundaries with a view to eliminate some school buildings to answer the issue of budget constraints.


Tue, May 28, 2013 : 10:43 p.m.

Cost, noreater, cost.


Tue, May 28, 2013 : 5:49 p.m.

Perhaps I should have said there's good reasons why one's servers should not all be in one room, or even one building. Distribute the hardware to multiple sites, for both redundancy and reliability.


Tue, May 28, 2013 : 5:45 p.m.

Centralization makes sense for hands-on administration, but nowadays servers don't need that. Remote administration is a necessity for larger server farms, and should be just as possible for a smaller one. That said, "putting all ones eggs in one basket" is a great way to make sure a minor problem in the building takes out the whole blasted network. Is that smart? NO! There's a reason they call it distributed computing, and any decent company uses it. The whole dang Internet is just that, there's no reason for all of AAPS's servers to be in one room.

Blazingly Busy

Tue, May 28, 2013 : 11:57 a.m.

I think I am going to stop reading about all the school stuff in Ann Arbor and just pray that the schools stay open and decent long enough for my children to graduate. (One in 2014 and one in 2018). More money for Balas. yay. Less teachers for the students. Boo. No, this post was not productive. I think a lot of people are fed up with the school board. I know I am.

Blazingly Busy

Wed, May 29, 2013 : 1:43 p.m.

Haha, I can only assume that the down vote on my post was from an administrator at BALAS? Or is it because I can't wait for my kids to graduate because I am, sadly, watching AAPS fall apart in front of my eyes.


Tue, May 28, 2013 : 6:04 p.m.

Could not agree with you more on that one. Privatize Balas folks!!!


Tue, May 28, 2013 : 12:14 p.m.

I hear ya. It's like I keep thinking if I can just get my kids through this- like it's an illness, not an education. Our family should be enjoying this time, not dreading what will be cut next.


Mon, May 27, 2013 : 7:17 p.m.

Maybe it's time for a new school board, one with fresh new ideas instead of the continual antiquated theme.


Tue, May 28, 2013 : 6:03 p.m.

Gee? You really think so? O my goodness....someone with a new and brighter idea. Something that is long over due and yet re elected because no one wanted to see change. Out with the old folks. Is this coming out of their food bill?


Mon, May 27, 2013 : 6:51 p.m.

I got the impression from past posts and comments that Balas being closed was being considered. Looks like someone really wanted to nip that in the bud, and was willing to put 1/2 a million into it; "we can't close it, we just did all the expensive work in there." Look for similar arguments when it's "let's a spend a few more tens of millions on a train station" time. By the way, does anyone else think it's weird the Ypsi DDA (which I assume is funded mostly by taxes) gave a bunch of money to the AATA (which is funded mostly by taxes, or am I incorrect on that?). Doesn't that seem like taking your tax money and giving it to soemone else who is also taking your tax money? I'm confused about what's going on there.


Thu, May 30, 2013 : 7:33 p.m.

DonBee - The Balas building has three room that are all next to each other. It has been a matter of low-budget expansion over the last 10 - 15 years, as I understand it. The renovations will be to convert these into a single room that is properly designed to support the district's core network infrastructure. The space would be better referred to as a 'NOC' (Network Operations Center) than a 'Server Room'.


Wed, May 29, 2013 : 1:40 a.m.

Danielle - But your article says there are 3 server rooms now in Balas. How does that square with Mr Trent's comment on 1 server room?

Danielle Arndt

Tue, May 28, 2013 : 4:05 p.m.

RUKiddingMe, this was in the previous story about the Balas renovation/tech bond purchase. It addresses the district's stance on the suggestion to close Balas and why it might not be feasible..... "As the district faces an $8.67 million budget shortfall for the upcoming school year, community members and the Ann Arbor Administrators Association repeatedly have called for closing the Balas building and dispersing central office staff in schools throughout the district. But AAPS Executive Director of Physical Properties Randy Trent said at the May 8 Board of Education meeting that district officials have worked hard over the years to centralize many of the servers that were scattered throughout AAPS to the main server room at Balas. He said the idea behind this was to be able to reduce the number of employees and employees compensation costs, which comes out of the general fund. He said having the equipment all in one spot saves the district from needing more staff to run off to different buildings to fix problems that would arise. 'It would cost well over $1 million to rewire the district in a different way that doesn't all come back to Balas,' Trent said."

Tom Teague

Tue, May 28, 2013 : 3:24 p.m.

From YDDA's website: "Subject to City Council approval, the DDA may use its bonding capacity and taxes captured through new construction (tax increment financing) to help finance public and public-private developments that encourage the economic vitality of the downtown area."


Mon, May 27, 2013 : 11:17 p.m.

So, Reader, the Ypsi DDA has only one source of money, and that's parking? I just want to be clear on this, because the A2 DDA (and I thought most DDAs) also gets money from TIF capture. But not the Ypsi DDA?

Michigan Reader

Mon, May 27, 2013 : 9:20 p.m.

The Ypsi DDA is giving a grant to the AATA for improvements in the downtown Ypsi transfer station on Pearl St. The grant money is staying in the community to improve public transportation. The Ypsi DDA gets its money from parking fees, there's no dedicated millage to support them.


Mon, May 27, 2013 : 5 p.m.

I still think they would have been better off using a cloud service. The operations cost to run their own IT will far exceed the cost of the cloud, and they don't have dedicated security and privacy staff to maintain the security on the data.

Nicholas Urfe

Tue, May 28, 2013 : 1:16 p.m.

Probably a large network bandwidth bill for that cloud service.


Tue, May 28, 2013 : 12:08 p.m.

beardown - Amazon or other of the other major cloud service vendors would probably do a wonderful job and in the long run keep more of the private data private. Given what I have seen of the "security" in AAPS with networks and wifi and... I vote for letting someone else protect the data.


Mon, May 27, 2013 : 9:21 p.m.

You do know that cloud services are run on physical, on the ground servers, right? Unless they outsource to a company, they are going to need to put them somewhere.