Construction decision delayed again

By Richard Greene | Published Wednesday, April 17, 2019
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A decision on construction at the high school will wait until May.

After receiving an updated quote of $1.5 million for renovations at the high school Monday, Decatur ISD trustees said they will review construction and renovations options May 13 after getting an update on property insurance premiums and deductibles April 25.

“We hope to make a decision on which way we’re going to go,” said Decatur ISD School Board President Cheri Boyd.

In March, trustees received a guaranteed maximum price of $4.12 million from its construction manager at-risk Steele and Freeman to build a three-story, 12-classroom addition and converting some other areas into classrooms. Trustees tabled action on the GMP and asked Steele and Freeman and architects from Claycomb to break out the classroom addition from the renovation projects at the school.

The updated price Monday from Steele and Freeman included renovating the Mac Shack on the second floor of the high school into a larger classroom space and on the third floor creating a health science lab by renovating the current ISS/Learning Center; and creating a science lab by renovating the read/write suite and neighboring classroom.

Trustees were also presented an update on the construction budget, which has $6.005 million available for projects.

Trustees expressed multiple concerns about moving ahead with the project, how much money could be spent out of the account for construction at the high school along with rising property insurance premiums and deductibles.

Deputy Superintendent Cindy Tatum early in the meeting warned trustees that an early quote she received on insurance, included $1 million maximum payout and $250,000 deductible.

Boyd asked Tatum how much money she felt comfortable with the district leaving in the construction budget to cover the deductible.

“If you leave $1 to $1.5 million in there, you should be fine,” Tatum said.

Trustees questioned if the high school had the biggest and most immediate need.

“We’ve talked about the high school being a priority from the attendance standpoint,” said trustee Charlie Tibbels. “We need some real data on that. We need to put a team together to look at priorities. We need a longterm gameplan before we drain the fund on a $4.5 million addition when we don’t know for sure that’s the priority.”

Trustee Matt Joiner shared his opinion that Decatur Intermediate had the most immediate need.

Superintendent Judi Whitis told the board that many of the renovations at the high school are program driven. Trustee Jennifer Wren expressed concern that without the renovations and addition, the high school would not be able to expand its career and technical offerings.

“We want quality staff and good quality programs for our CTE,” Wren said. “I’m concerned that we are going to miss, we have a little window here before that growth hits our high school. I’m concerned we are going to get there and we’re not going to have room for these kids and we’re not going to be able to expand programs. The CTE programs are great for our kids.”

Trustee Wade Watson, in his final regular meeting, said the problem with the project has been escalating costs.

“It went from a $3 million to a $5 million project,” Watson said.

Boyd suggested the district set up a longterm strategic planning committee.

“We need to figure out what our needs are,” Boyd said.

After the long discussion, Wren suggested trustees wait until after they make a decision on the insurance coverage before deciding on the construction.

In other business, trustees authorized the refinancing of $11 million in bonds from 2009. The bonds are eligible to be called Aug. 15.

The district could save as much as $1.269 million, according to financial adviser Jeff Robert of Hilltop Securities.

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