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Trustees table construction at DHS

By Richard Greene | Published Wednesday, March 27, 2019
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A decision on the classroom addition and renovations at Decatur High School will wait at least a few more weeks.

Decatur ISD trustees tabled action on the construction projects Monday after receiving a guaranteed maximum price (GMP) of $4.12 million from builder Steele and Freeman for the classroom addition and renovations at Decatur High School. The price included the construction of a three-story, 12-classroom addition and converting some other areas into classrooms.

Steele and Freeman also provided prices on three alternates – $434,343 for removing walls on the second story and putting in movable partitions; $223,063 for converting an auxiliary restroom into an officials locker room in gym; and $60,511 for remodeling administrative offices.

Expressing concerns about the total costs, including permitting, furniture and equipment, nearing $5 million, trustees asked Steele and Freeman and architect Claycomb to come back in April with an itemized breakout of the new construction and renovations for consideration.

Trustee Charlie Tibbels moved the motion to table the projects. He pointed out that the GMP included the science lab and health science conversions, journalism classroom renovation, security doors at the rotunda along with the construction of the 12-classroom addition.

“What I want to see is them broken down,” Tibbels said. “If we can do some of these, in particular cutting out some of that and putting in the movable partitions with some of these smaller things, maybe we can buy ourselves some time.”

The district has $5.9 million set aside for construction, according to a report by Deputy Superintendent Cindy Tatum.

Superintendent Judi Whitis suggested $5 million as the target to keep the project under in order to keep some money in the construction account.

Monday after getting the GMP, trustees questioned spending nearly the entire construction fund for projects at the high school.

“My concern is Decatur Intermediate. That facility is aging and I continue to hear concerns,” said trustee Wade Watson. “I am concerned about not leaving any money in the construction budget to handle some upgrades that are badly needed there. We’ve talked about it in facility workshops. But we’re going to end up spending everything we have on this project and leaving nothing to do these other projects. Not saying we don’t need this project at the high school. We’ve been talking about this for nearly two years. But the price of it has escalated.”

Trustee Matt Joiner called on his fellow board members to shelf the project.

“I think it sets a dangerous precedent to exhaust all the reserves at our disposal without one iota of consideration for the other campuses.

“I recommend we do nothing right now. We’ve spent hundreds of thousands of dollars. We need to stop the bleeding here.”

The district has paid $97,836 for architect fees for the classroom addition. The total architect fees for the project are expected to be more than $300,000. The district paid $192,609 on architect fees for the athletic improvements that were not pursued.

After more discussion, trustees passed on Joiner’s recommendation and asked for the additional breakdown of the costs.

“I hate that we’ve spent all the money on the architects,” Tibbels said. “I’ve been on the board for 10 months, and it’s gone from the athletic stuff to now this thing. I don’t think we’ve ever put a finger on what’s absolutely necessary to do. Is it the intermediate school? We don’t know. I’m at a loss. I don’t know what we are supposed to do with that. Every time we turn around there’s something else we are having to deal with. Five million [dollars] is not nearly enough. We need $30 [million] to do what we really need to do. Unfortunately, I think we’ve lost a lot of political clout to be able to float a bond out there. That’s where we sit.”

School Board President Cheri Boyd agreed that trustees needed more information on the prices and a better feel for what the Texas Legislature will decide on school finance.

“Knowing what we have in the account and potential renovations and construction we might have to do at other campuses, I’m comfortable with waiting, and waiting to see what the Legislature does,” Boyd said.

Superintendent Judi Whitis said her staff will continue working to provide the additional information to the board.

“I’ve suggested several things and brought items to their attention, including a facility study and what is needed,” Whitis said. “We’ll honor their request and continue to provide information that they asked for, so they can make the best decision.”

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