Stretching School Project Dollars

Ohio County Board of Education members already have received some unpleasant surprises involving the district-wide campaign to repair and improve school buildings. Recall that a few months ago, they learned a contract they thought included replacement of all doors in a school included only some of them. And just last month, officials found bids for heating and ventilating work at Triadelphia Middle School were far higher than had been hoped.

Thus far, school officials have been relatively lucky. Though some bids have been higher than expected, others have been lower. For example, in May, it was learned planned work at Bridge Street School would cost $551,000 less than had been budgeted.

Board members have been warned not to expect much of that during the next few years, as the $76 million improvement program continues. Last summer, they were told to expect construction cost increases of about 5% a year — more if some major project in the Ohio Valley affects the labor supply.

During their meeting this week, board members discussed employing Project and Construction Services Inc., to help deal with improvement program costs. The firm is headquartered in Cleveland and has an office in Barnesville. Company representatives present at the Monday meeting said they could help provide oversight for “budget adherence.”

No decisions were made Monday, but board members seemed interested in the idea. They should.

The scope of the local program — again, $76 million, including a $42.2 million bond issue approved by local voters — is virtually an invitation for cost overruns. If a company experienced in holding costs down and with a good track record of doing so can be employed, it could save money in the long run.

Board members are right to consider the idea as a way of making taxpayers’ dollars buy as much as possible for students in Ohio County public schools.


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