Last November, voters approved 89-million dollars in construction costs for the expansion and renovation of Columbus East and Columbus North high schools, but a sagging economy meant bids for those projects came in well below estimates — a scenario seen elsewhere in the city during bidding for the Commons renovation. Bartholomew Consolidated School Corporation Superintendent John Quick said that means he can ask the school board for what he calls “alternates” — upgrades which were not part of the original construction plan.
“A lot of times when you take bids, you’re not able to buy any of the alternates that you would like to buy because they’ll come in over [budget] or it just don’t work out,” Quick said. “In this case…we’re buying a lot of the alternates here — at least that’s our recommendation.”
Quick said he’d also like to add security cameras, upgrade computers and add new furniture in both the new and existing parts of the schools. Because House Bill 1001 — the same bill which enacted property tax caps in the state — also mandated that all school construction projects costing more than 12 million dollars must be approved by voters in the affected area, this first project is a referendum of sorts itself. The more BCSC gets for its money, the more likely voters may be in the future to approve construction bonds.
“We hope that’s one of the outcomes or one of the consequences,” Quick said. “But when we come with another project — and we don’t anticipate that real soon here — that project will have to stand on its own merits.”
Quick insists there’s no danger of cost overruns by adding the alternates, because the bond tops out at the 89-million dollar figure approved by voters. And he says there are contingencies built into the budget to offset concern that money could be used up earlier than anticipated, leaving construction unfinished.