Mt. Vernon Register-News

January 21, 2014

New school could exclude theater, football field



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MT. VERNON — Mt. Vernon Township High School does not have enough money to build the new school as it is currently proposed, so officials are considering eliminating the theater building and the football field from the construction plans.

For the last month or so, district officials have worked to cut costs on the new high school, after construction bids came in at about $6 million over-budget in December. About $3.5 to $4 million in cost reductions have been made to the project so far.

To address the remaining $2 million shortfall, however, two options are now being considered.

One alternative is to cut the theater entirely from the plans and to add an auxiliary gym. This would make the project $523,000 under-budget.

The second option is to just build the shell of the theater building without a finished interior and to eliminate the football field and grandstands. With these alterations, the project would still be about $900,000 over-budget.

As part of this option, though, there was also talk of doing away with the second-floor track planned for the new gymnasium, which would add to the cost savings.

Superintendent Michael Smith stressed that no formal decisions have yet been made regarding cutting the proposed theater.

“That’s an option that’s been put on the table, one of many, but we’ve always considered (the theater) an integral part of the project and still do,” Smith said. “So we’ll see what our options are as more information comes in.”

If the option to build a theater shell were pursued, the district would likely have a fundraising drive to finish the theater’s interior sometime in the future. It would likely cost about $1.8 million to complete the interior.

It’s unclear how these options would affect the $100,000 Schweinfurth Foundation grant to help equip the new theater.

The theater issue was broached at a special meeting Monday afternoon of the MVTHS Board of Education. It was one of many topics to surface at that time regarding the controversial effort to build a new high school.

Chris Nisbet, project director for the McCarthy consulting firm, said Monday the district’s best course of action at this point is to rebid five of the project’s work categories, including masonry, general works, metals, plaster and landscaping.

For the remaining 20 categories, the district would award base bid contracts to the current low bidders. Then, consultants would work with those contractors and come to an agreement on cost reductions proposed by the district.

“You’d write a contract to them and then we’d have to sit down with them and negotiate those items,” Nisbet said. “It would be very tough negotiations for us on your behalf.”

The project’s timeline was another key topic at Monday’s meeting.

As things stand now, construction will likely be about six months behind schedule, meaning the new school would have to open in January 2016, instead of August 2015 as was originally planned, Nisbet said.

To meet the time frame obligations for the federal grant funding, the new school would have to be finished by the spring of 2017.

“We’re definitely trying to get a revised construction schedule nailed down,” Smith said.

MVTHS Board member Norma Fairchild expressed disappointment at not being on schedule with the project.

“We are at a critical point with this community,” Fairchild said. “Our integrity is being challenged.”

The new school project will be discussed further at the next MVTHS Board meeting, set for 7 p.m. tonight.