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Growing project cost at South Central reversing

Costs are being reigned in at the South Central schools construction project.
Initially awarded to Koetter Construction for $10.7 million, the project has produced change orders approved for up to $1.9 million and a proposal for a $60,000 construction coordinator position. The change orders will likely cost far less and the new position is a dead issue, after having been rejected last month by the South Harrison Community School Corp. School Board of Trustees.
Regulations prohibit awarding more than 20 percent of a project’s initial cost through change orders. The worst-case scenario at South Central would have left the school board with the ability to approve no more than $240,000 for unforeseen costs, assuming the full additional $1.9 million was used.
If the project could not be completed inside the maximum allowable dollar amount, Supt. Neyland Clark said the school would probably have used capital project funds rather than funds dedicated to the construction project. Otherwise, he said, an appeal would have to be made to the state. “I don’t know that that has ever occurred,” he said.
The project will connect South Central Junior-Senior High School and South Central Elementary School. The complex will contain a new gymnasium, new classrooms, a comprehensive roofing system, and other additions and improvements.
But of those items added to the initial plan, none are crucial to the completion of the project, Clark said. The school could cut items from the change order if necessary.
“They were things we had planned to do after the project was completed,” said Carolyn Wallace, South Harrison’s director of business operations. She added that by addressing various concerns now, the same contractor can perform the work and issue the warranty.
Items which were viewed as being primarily cosmetic, and as such extravagant, created enough opposition that some changes are being rethought.
One substantial reduction was in the brick front which will provide some physical functions for the building and tie together the differing architectural styles of South Central Junior-Senior High School and South Central Elementary School. Initially $484,000 was allocated for the facade. A less costly design has been accepted, reducing that figure by 50 percent or more, Clark said.
The construction coordinator position was proposed due to the size and complexity of the South Central school project, said former board president Susie Rainbolt.
The position would have been an administrative role overseeing the project and would have paid about $60,000 each year through June 2004.
Had the position been approved, the coordinator would participate in various meetings and conferences, coordinate inspections and related programs, and frequently visit all projects to assure that plans, specifications, codes and regulations were being followed.
Additionally, the coordinator would maintain records and resolve problems resulting directly or indirectly from construction.
The creation of the new position was rejected 4-3 at a special meeting of the school board Dec. 17, after members expressed concern over the salary and the need for such a position.
“I think what you have is differences of opinion in people on the board and people coming on,” Clark said. “My belief is that you don’t second-guess people because at the time they made what they thought was the best decision based on the information they had.”
In the meantime, the project is continuing as scheduled, and barring any future difficulties, construction should be completed in about a year.