A new school complex in Bibb County will cost the district $9 million more than originally planned.
On Tuesday, Board of Education members approved a $5.2 million increase in the budget for the new Appling Middle/Northeast High School facility, bringing the total to $54.2 million. The project’s initial cost was $45 million but was adjusted to $49 million in April 2017 to allow for additional square footage for more instructional units.
The most recent raise can be attributed to a tariff on steel and aluminum products, increases in material costs and an overburdened labor pool, builders said during a presentation to the board April 19. The district is using SP Design Group, WM2A Architects, Sheridan Construction and Stafford Builders for the project, said Jason Daniel, executive director of Capital Programs for the district.
"The board is here to exercise oversight, which means fiscal accountability. This has been beyond the control of the people who've done this job, I want to make that very clear," board Treasurer Daryl Morton said. "This is the cornerstone project of this ESPLOST, this Northeast/Appling project. It's been needed for a long time. I'm just ready to get this thing going."
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A large chunk of taxpayer dollars has been committed to this project, and Morton said he's confident in the companies that have been selected to perform the work.
The high school portion of the Upper River Road complex will be 166,150 square feet, and the middle school will be 110,550, according to the builders. Phase one of the project — the high school — began at the end of April and should be completed by August 2019. Construction on the middle school portion should begin in September 2019 and finish by August 2020.
Daniel said only infrastructure improvements that were needed regardless of the final price were started before the board's vote Tuesday. If board members had not approved the cost increase, the district would have gone back to the drawing board and redesigned the facility to remain within the $48.8 million budget.
The additional money needed for the complex will be redirected from education special purpose local option sales tax funds originally designated for renovation work at other schools.
Nearly $3.8 million had been budgeted for roof repairs and new heating and air equipment at Skyview Elementary, but the HVAC work will be pushed to the next five-year plan, according to a report from the district. The system is 16 years old, and the district does not usually replace units until they are more than 20 years old. The roof work has been paid for through an energy efficiency fund.
Roof repairs and heating and air equipment for Hartley Elementary was reduced by about $630,000 and roof and security improvements for Lane Elementary were reduced by $590,000. Those projects have been completed through energy efficiency and security improvement funds. Lastly, about $242,000 was taken from security and roof improvements budgeted for Taylor Elementary because they were duplicate items.