Millions spent on Washington County school projects in 2011

August 06, 2011|By JULIE E. GREENE |

BOONSBORO — About 80,000 square feet of sod was rolled out onto the field at Boonsboro High School’s stadium last week.

New bleachers were being assembled in the school gym to replace seating that was about 35 years old.

Electricians were replacing the primary electric line to the Boonsboro school complex. The previous line, installed in the 1970s, was buried without a conduit and had deteriorated, resulting in a power outage that closed the high school May 2.

These projects and dozens more are among the maintenance projects being done at Washington County Public Schools in 2011, Many of the projects are completed or started during summer break, Deputy Schools Superintendent Boyd Michael said.

The projects include $6.4 million for 11 deferred maintenance projects from a backlog that was about $37 million as of October 2010, according to the school system’s comprehensive maintenance plan, Herald-Mail archives and Board of Education meeting minutes.

The cost of the major projects being done, and some of the smaller ones, is about $7.7 million, school system officials said.

“The bad economy, while bad for a lot of places, was good on our end,” with the competitive market resulting in excellent prices and enabling the school system to take on more projects than anticipated this year, Michael said.

Michael said he expects 2012 to be more challenging, with anticipated funding cuts meaning less money is likely to be available for maintenance projects, he said.

Projects that are prioritized for 2012 include installation of a new roof at Washington County Technical High School, replacement of doors and windows at Smithsburg High School, and replacement of the gym floor at Springfield Middle School in Williamsport, facilities officials said.

Whether major projects beyond those three can be undertaken will depend on funding levels, said Rob Rollins, director of facilities planning and development.

Helping to pay the cost of deferred maintenance projects being done this summer was the $634,704 the school system budgeted for the Barbara Ingram School for the Arts lease. That money was budgeted in case the state didn’t provide money for the lease payment, which it did.

The deferred maintenance list includes projects for which the school system didn’t have funding previously, items placed on the list due to their age and regardless of their condition, and items that wouldn’t have made the list due to their age, but that require constant maintenance, school system officials said.

For instance, a boiler automatically would go on the list once it reaches its 30th year, but if it’s maintained well and in good shape, facilities officials just keep an eye on it, Rollins said.

If a 20-year-old boiler were to fail, it would become a priority project over a working 30-year-old boiler, he said.

Major painting projects are a good example of jobs for which the school system hasn’t had the money in recent years, Michael said. Utility projects that are critical to serving schools are prioritized, he said.

Painting and other maintenance work is going on that isn’t a part of the approximately $7.7 million in projects, Michael said.

The school system has 36 tradespeople on staff who handle various projects, said Mark Mills, director of maintenance and operations.

Mills said facilities officials usually get at least two quotes for projects that cost less than $20,000, though they aren’t required to get more than one quote.

For projects expected to cost $20,000 to $25,000, officials get three quotes, Michael said. Anything more than $25,000 goes out to bid.

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