Special to CONTRACTOR
FALLON, NEV. — From the time it opened in 1915 until it closed its doors in the mid-1970s, Oats Park School was the only public K-12 school in this northern Nevada community. With so many local residents having ties to the school, they have been the ones who have been relied upon to help fund the rebirth of the school building as a community arts center.
The public funding of the renovation has created an unusual work schedule for De-Ricco Plumbing in Sparks, Nev., about an hour’s drive away. DeRicco has been working on Oats Park School since 1997, and the contractor is still working on it. DeRicco has been installing the plumbing in phases.
“With most of the money coming from contributions, the work only goes as far as the money will take it,” Ernie De-Ricco told CONTRACTOR. “I do the plumbing work as the money comes in.”
The work has progressed far enough along so that performances are being staged in a 450-seat auditorium in a new wing of the building. Near the entrance of the addition, De-Ricco has installed two public restrooms, which also serve the needs of the original structure.
Designed by Nevada architect Frederick J. DeLongchamps, Oats Park School was placed on both the State and National Registers of Historic Places in 1990 after the school had been decommissioned. In 1992, the facility was approved for an adaptive reuse as a multi-disciplinary arts center, including state-of-the-art performing and visual arts centers. Both the community and the architect wanted to retain as much of the original schoolhouse flavor as possible.
Among the many unique features built into the original design by DeLongchamps were two three-bubbler drinking fountains that flank the main entrance of the building.
“The architect said we were to refurbish the old drinking fountains from 1915,” DeRicco said. “So, I contacted Haws, the original manufacturer, which is also located in Sparks.”
Haws Corp. receives many such requests, said Engineering Manager Casey Hayes. The company recently began to offer what it calls its “Heritage Service” as an organized way for contractors and other building professionals to obtain assistance with restoration of 40-year-old and older Haws products, he said.
DeRicco met with Mike Maciosek, senior technical support representative who heads up the Heritage Service. Due to the age of these particular drinking fountains, Maciosek initially had difficulty finding a catalog that went back far enough to list them, DeRicco said.
“Later on, Mike called to tell me that Haws was willing to restore the fountains as best as they could,” DeRicco said. “Haws did a really good job, and everyone is pleased with the results.”
Maciosek had instructed DeRicco to remove the fountains and bring them to the Haws Sparks facility, where the fountain bowls were repainted and fitted with state-of-the-art bubblers and other hardware. DeRicco then reinstalled the refurbished fountains in their original locations.
“The challenge was to find lead-free parts,” Maciosek said. “Also, we tried to refinish the bowls but we couldn’t get them to look clean enough. So, we wound up having to repaint them.”
DeRicco installed new Haws fountains in the public restrooms where he also put in American Standard toilets, urinals and hand sinks. The faucets are from American Standard and Sloan, which also made the flush valves.
In addition, DeRicco did the plumbing for two smaller restrooms near the auditorium stage to be used mostly by staff and performers. Dressing rooms in the basement are planned for the future, and DeRicco will do the plumbing.
He also has re-piped the main building, which had been gutted during renovation. The contractor installed 3-in. and 4-in. copper water mains and cast-iron pipe for sanitary sewer and venting.
To date, the plumbing work has cost about $90,000, DeRicco said. Currently, the Oats Park School renovation is updating former classrooms in the main building. The break in the plumbing schedule isn’t such bad news for DeRicco Plumbing, which is a two-man shop.
“It gives us time to work on other jobs,” Ernie DeRicco said.