By TESA GLASS
MT. VERNON — —
Mt. Vernon Township High School Board Chairman Carl Miller said questions raised by the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce Past President's Council have been answered.
"Before the board meeting, I met with Mike Beard, a member of the Past President's Council," Miller said. "We went over building plans (for the new school) and answered a large number of the questions the (chamber) committee had before the questions were presented on Tuesday night."
Beard, representing the Past President's Council, addressed members of the MVTHS Board with a statement and questions from the council regarding the plans and financing of the new school building. Miller said although it appeared the board did not answer the questions during the regular meeting, the statement and questions were being answered.
"We didn't go into details with Mike, answering the questions because the questions had already been answered and I expect Mike will share the information with the council," Miller said. "Mike read the statement to the board as the council asked him to do, but the answers had been given."
Questions raised by the Past President's Council included those regarding the design of the new school. MVTHS Superintendent Mike Smith and other board members had previously met with the council, raising the questions about who was designing the building — the superintendent or the architect.
"It is our council's understanding that the original conceptual designs have changed," Beard said Tuesday.
"Mike (Smith) is not a designer," Miller said. "He has a concept of what a modern school would be and has shared that. He didn't design it, that takes years of work and dozens of people to do it. ... He's our superintendent and has past building experience. FGM Architects are developing the site plan and the construction manager on the project, McCarthy Builders, are overseeing the prices and workability of the plans."
The design for the school was presented to the public last week by members of the MVTHS Building Committee.
"It's not the same building in total as it was when we had the referendum," Miller said. "The facade, the size and color are the same. The layout of corridors is different, with curved corridors. ... Our architects and our construction manager tell us that in this scale of building, it is no more expensive to build the curved corridors than a traditional one. ... The conceptual pictures presented to the chamber and the public during the referendum were preliminary. It takes (architects) thousands of hours. They couldn't design the building until the referendum passed."
When the Capital Development Board approved the building project, work on the actual design began.
"Then, and only then, did the board approve spending money for the work to start," Miller said. "That was Feb. 16, 2012."
Miller said concerns about whether the costs of land acquisition, disposition of the existing buildings, furniture and moving expenses are included in the original funds should be put to rest.
"That is all included," Miller said. "The only thing is the Capital Development Board doesn't pay for demolition of the old campus, that will come out of the local match of $19.8 million from the referendum."
Miller said there is a caveat to the funds approved for the project by the CDB — it approved more than requested.
"Whenever we got the verification from the CDB, we had asked for $62.5 million. ... They approved us for $72 million, with an extra $10 million on the table."
However, Miller said taxpayers, under guidelines of the referendum, will only fund up to the local portion of $62.5 million.
"It is up to us, the board and administration, to go out into the county and ask if people would like to help pay for it," Miller said. "We could ask people to help equip a science lab, have naming rights on a gym or special feature. The CDB will gives $2 for every $1 we put in. If we can raise funds locally, we could get the $10 million."