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WASHS renovation deficit angers board

March 10, 2009|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. -- Waynesboro Area School Board members on Tuesday got answers to a lot of their questions regarding a $4 million deficit with the high school expansion and renovation project.

What they didn't determine is how they'll pay for it.

The school board borrowed $40 million for the $46 million project, which is slated to wrap up this fall. Board members contend they were told the $6 million difference could be found through interest and "value-added engineering," a method of saving money during construction.

While $2 million in interest is still anticipated, that value-added engineering has fallen drastically short. Some board members said Tuesday that they feel mislead.

"Fairy tales were told," board member Chris Devers said.

A representative of architectural firm EI Associates of Harrisburg, Pa., contended that the firm presented district administrators with $1 million worth of ways to save money. Those were largely rejected, he said.

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"Ultimately it comes down to whether or not you want to make that change," Mark Barnhardt said.

Each contractor was asked in writing to present alternate materials or methods that would reduce costs from the bid documents, Barnhardt said. The results included reducing the number of bleachers in the new gym or changing the flooring type, he said.

Board members said they agreed to the more expensive flooring and different brick, but were not made aware of other changes. Much of the blame was placed on retired Superintendent Barry L. Dallara.

The Herald-Mail attempted to contact Dallara, but the last known cell phone number has been disconnected.

"I assume some of these materials were rejected for being inferior," board member K. Marilyn Smith said.

Barnhardt did present the board with some positive information, saying its $266,000 worth of change orders are 75 percent less than what was budgeted for them.

"Change orders continue constantly on a project," Barnhardt said. "Contractors are asking if they can get a change order for work being done or unforeseen circumstances."

The economy caused the board to lose $1.2 million in anticipated interest, Business Administrator Caroline Dean said.

The board asked Barnhardt to return in April when financial consultant Public Financial Management presents more information about the construction project funding. It asked for additional documentation regarding "soft costs" like professional fees and furniture.

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