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Bids for Decatur ag facility exceed estimate

By Brian Knox | Published Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Prices for the construction of a new agriculture facility at Decatur High School might be higher than the school district expected.

Only two bids were received for the project, and the low bid was $943,700 from J&D Dodd. Superintendent Rod Townsend had said during previous meetings he estimated the cost would be around $700,000 to $800,000.

While the numbers were disappointing, Townsend said it might be possible to bring the costs down, although he declined to guess by how much.

“I talked to the architect (Monday) and asked him about getting some of these prices down,” Townsend said. “… He feels like there are some ways to get some of the numbers down. As far as how much, he was not willing to say that.

“His recommendation was to work with the low bidder and go through some value engineering and try to get our target costs to where we wanted it to be. If that didn’t work, then obviously we’d have to go back to the drawing board and completely re-bid it.”

Board President Kevin Haney was also disappointed in the cost, but he said he would like to find a way to move forward.

“We need this project,” he said. “We need to get it done, but we need to be as good a steward as we can with the money we have and try to reduce the price if we have an opportunity to do that.”

Townsend said the district has a few funding options. First, there’s $90,000 in insurance money as a result of a storage barn that was destroyed during an ice storm this past winter.

There’s also approximately $225,000 in state funding for career and technology programs over the next two years that could be applied to the new facility. If the price remains at $943,700, that would leave the remaining $628,700 to be paid for through fund balance.

But the board hopes to get that down to around $850,000. They agreed to allow Townsend to work with the architect and the low bidder to reduce the cost. The board will hold a special meeting in two weeks to reconsider the project.

In order to have the facility built in time for the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year, work would need to begin soon since the project is expected to take 120 to 180 days.

During the public forum portion of the meeting, Dwayne Hicks spoke as a representative for the Decatur FFA Alumni group, which had several members in attendance. He said the agriculture program not only teaches students about agriculture, but also leadership and life skills. The group wanted the board to know how important they feel the project and the program are to the students.

“We’ve got a great ag program going,” Hicks said. “The three ag teachers are doing a great job. … The kids are excited, but the barn is full. Enrollment is up. You walk through there in the fall before the major shows, and there is no room for any more animals.

“That’s a reason to build this facility, but I understand there is also the chance to build another classroom or have an arena in there to hold our own contests. It all comes down to the chance to affect many young people’s lives by giving them the skills suited for everyday life, real life experiences they can take and use forever.”

Ricky Stutt also spoke during the public forum. He said while he supports the ag program, he wondered if the reason so many students were taking ag classes was because they didn’t have more options in the career and technology area.

“I taught for almost 20 years, and a lot of time you had kids in there who didn’t have any other place to go,” he said. “And my concern is why are they all focused on [that], and what else do we have for them to do?

“What do we have specifically for girls, like a CNA program, which is relatively cheap?” he added. “Criminal justice is something else that’s pretty cheap. Drafting, computer automated drafting, building trades, all that stuff we need to look at and consider. These all draw the CTE (career and technology education) funding, just like the ag program.”

In other business, the board:

  • OK’d a policy to prohibit school employees or members of the public on school property from using electronic cigarettes or electronic vaporizing devices. Students are already prohibited from using these devices.
  • approved the instructional materials allotment and certified that the material meets at least 50 percent of the elements of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS).
  • honored the Decatur High School Flamenco dance group, seventh grader Madison Scroggins as the district spelling bee winner and members of the middle school and high school Destination Imagination teams who recently competed in the state meet.
  • honored Kim Warren of Young Elementary as educator of the month and Monica Scarlett of Decatur High School as support staff employee of the month.

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