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Committee finishes recommendation details

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

It took 18 months and didn't end with a unanimous vote, but the Marshall Public Schools Facility Committee is ready to make its recommendation to the Board of Education.

The group met Monday to iron out its plan, but could not reach a unanimous decision on how large a bond issue should be pursued in April 2003.

Estimates could be high

At the group's Dec. 2 meeting, the committee had approved recommending a list of projects which had an estimated cost of nearly $13.7 million. The plan includes renovating Bueker Middle School, constructing a new elementary for third through fifth grades, adding two new science labs at Marshall High School, air conditioning for the industrial arts classrooms, renovating the existing elementary schools and purchasing and developing land needed for the new elementary school.

Monday night, committee member Walt Keith said he had done some investigating and now believes that cost estimate is too high. Keith said he believed everything included in the recommendation could be done for $10 million.

Among those whom Keith had contacted was the Moberly school district, which built an elementary school in 1999. Members of the committee had toured the school and most agreed it was impressive. Keith noted that it was also considerably less expensive than the estimates Marshall has received from the architectural firm of ACI/Frangkiser Hutchens.

The 67,000-square-foot school in Moberly had a base cost of $5,000,083 compared to the base cost of $5,401,200 for the 64,300-square-foot building proposed for Marshall. Adjusted for inflation, the base cost of Moberly's building would be about $5,356,573 today, making it similar to Marshall's. However, Moberly's base cost also included site work, casework, chalk and marker boards, kitchen equipment, bleachers and 900-square-foot classrooms while Marshall's does not. Those items together add an additional $1,406,700 to Marshall's building costs, bringing the total, before architect fees, to $6,807,900.

Keith also said he spoke with Mike McGrath, an engineer with the Missouri Department of Transportation, about the cost of street improvements that would be needed to access the proposed properties. McGrath estimated the cost of a turning lane at $30,000 to $40,000 and the addition of a traffic signal at $120,000 to $125,000. Architects with ACI had estimated the total cost at $500,000.

In addition, Keith said McGrath had informed him that the increase in traffic created by one elementary school would probably not warrant the installation of a traffic signal and might not even be enough to necessitate a turning lane.

What to do now

Deciding what to do with this new information was what led to the split vote in the group's recommendation. While some, including Keith and member Lester Bailey, wanted to see the committee reduce the recommended bond amount, others, like Vice Chairman Dale Zank, felt it was a matter for the school board to decide.

"The questions you've raised are good ones, and the board should get with the construction management firm and the architects to make sure they're answered," Zank said. "But I don't believe anyone on this committee has the expertise to take $2 million out of this bond issue."

Zank was joined by members Morris Shikles and Barbara Lockhart as well as committee Chairman George Clemens in cautioning against setting a bond issue amount that would be too low. Clemens said that recently happened to the Orearville school district, where the lowest bid was 30 percent higher than the amount bonded for.

Bailey and fellow member Richard Clemens both said they have heard from people who will not support a $13 million bond issue. Clemens said the construction of capital projects like the new tennis courts at Marshall High School has led some people to question the need for new classrooms there.

"Unless we get this down some, we're going to go down in fire in the next election," he said.

Marshall Superintendent of Schools Joe Aull said the district had only asked its architects to give rough estimates and added he would be willing to go back and discuss the basis for those estimates with the firm.

"If we need to go back and haggle the price, we've got a month and a half to do that," he said. The board must have the bond issue amount to Saline County Clerk Ken Bryant no later than Jan. 28, 2003, for inclusion on the April 2003 ballot.

Vote splits

In a compromise motion, member Tom Marshall moved the committee present its recommendation to the Board of Education, including items previously discussed, with a cost range of $10 million to $13.7 million, with the understanding that the board will have questions answered concerning the price differences.

Bailey and Keith both abstained from the vote and member Arline Borchers voted against the motion.



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