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Washington County school board delays vote on bids for new Bester Elementary School

Decision postponed about whether board will go with nonprevailing wages for project

September 04, 2012|By JULIE E. GREENE | julieg@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Board of Education voted 6-0 Tuesday to remove a vote on bids for the construction of a new Bester Elementary School from its agenda, delaying the decision about whether the board will go with nonprevailing wages for the project.

Board President Wayne Ridenour said after the meeting that a couple of things need to be reviewed and the board wants to make sure it has all its “ducks in a row before moving forward.” Asked if there were concerns about going with nonprevailing wages for the project, Ridenour said “All our ducks in a row.”

Nonprevailing wages are lower than prevailing wages.

Going with nonprevailing wages, at a cost of $18,332,853, is approximately $2.4 million cheaper than going with prevailing wages, which came in at approximately $20.7 million during the latest bid for the new school project, according to presentation documents for Tuesday’s board meeting. The rebid, like the first bid for the project, came in over the estimated $17.2 million budget for this portion of the new school project.

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Schools Superintendent Clayton Wilcox said the primary reason for delaying the Bester vote was there were still questions about funding, including the county’s participation and the “interplay” with prevailing or nonprevailing wages.

The state does not contribute as high a percentage of funds to school projects that use nonprevailing, or cheaper, wages than it does for projects paying prevailing wages, Deputy Schools Superintendent Boyd Michael said last week. The cost for the recently bid part of the project would be cheaper using nonprevailing wages. The cost to the county would be approximately $500,000 less if the project pays nonprevailing wages, Michael said.

The project would still cost the county more than originally expected because the bids came in over budget, Michael said. The school board  and County Commissioners are expected to meet next Tuesday.

Representatives from three unions, which represent local electrical, iron and sheet metal workers, addressed the school board during its citizen participation segment to advocate for prevailing wages for the Bester project.

Richard Carder, business manager for Local Union 307 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, said prevailing wages will ensure workers had training or are going through a state-registered apprenticeship program to get training.

The staff’s recommendation to go with nonprevailing wages includes adding two alternates to the project.

The first alternate, an expanded gymnasium, would serve as a recreational facility for the surrounding communities, according to presentation documents. That alternate adds about $197,974, to the cost. The state has committed to partial funding for the community gym.

The second alternate, which adds $112,000 to the cost, is Invensys heating, ventilation and air conditioning controls, presentation documents state. Those controls are considered a high priority, to maintain a standardized system-wide monitoring of mechanical controls, the document states.

Board member W. Edward Forrest was absent from Tuesday’s meeting.

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