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Prop P work at Oakville Middle placed at $172,185 over construction budget

The Proposition P Oversight Committee recently recommended the Mehlville Board of Education approve the installation of air conditioning at Oakville Middle School — placing improvements at the school $172,185 over budget.

Committee members had postponed making a decision Oct. 15, citing a lack of information. On Oct. 22, however, representatives of McCarthy Construction, construction manager for the Proposition P districtwide building improvement program, and Dickinson Hussman Architects provided the panel with more specific numbers that outlined the second phase of construction work at Oakville Middle scheduled for summer 2004.

Work that was completed this summer included electrical upgrades, technology equipment and infrastructure improvements, roof and other building repairs.

However, the district did not expect to pay $159,569 for a new fire alarm system, ceilings and branch power lightning panel boards.

During the design phase of the project, asbestos-containing ceiling tile and floor tile was discovered that had not been identified in previous asbestos reports. While the asbestos abatement work and the building addition were completed this summer, the remainder of the air conditioning work and the installation of new energy-efficient windows were delayed until next summer.

During the abatement work, Dwight Dickinson of Dickinson Hussman Architects said the building's old fire alarm system was disconnected and it was more prudent to install a new alarm system amounting to $99,154.

Randy Charles, assistant superintendent for finance and the district's chief financial officer, said at the committee's Oct. 15 meeting that $30,000 of the overage could be eliminated if the Department of Natural Resources awards the district an energy savings loan/grant to cover costs for energy-efficient boilers.

The utilities saving gained during a period of time essentially would pay back the loan.

Even though the project would go over budget, most committee members said the district could not remove air conditioning from Oakville Middle's improvement plan.

"I would be for it. I think it would be a shame to say that we're not going to do this and then you have one whole community area (saying), 'Well how come it was my school that was the only school that didn't get air conditioning?'" committee member Sandy Applegate said Oct. 22. "... I think for that price, it needs to be done."

Oversight Committee Chairman Chuck Van Gronigen and committee member Mike Levine supported the project with reservations.

"The only reservation is that we anticipate that it will take it over budget and because our charge is to be on time and on budget and within the spirit of Prop P," Van Gronigen told the Call. "That's the only reason I have reservations ... I hope it comes in and it is bid well, priced well and installed well and it doesn't cost us a dime over it. The board may have the opportunity to decide whether that is money well spent."

Dickinson said that after a competitive bidding process with contractors, the cost for air conditioning the school could decrease, ultimately reducing how much over bud-get the project will be.

"I think we have looked at just about every value-engineering possibility under the sun and honestly, I can't think of anything other than something that would reduce scope or reduce quality,'' Dickinson said. "And I think we all have come to the conclusion before that we don't want to reduce quality here."

Tom Correnti, a newly appointed committee member, pointed out that the ballot language voters supported in November 2000 does not state that all district buildings will be equipped with air conditioning.

"If we were to reduce scope, we're not really violating the sanctity of the language of Prop P,'' he said.

But Patrick Wallace, the district's director of school/community relations who does not serve on the committee, told Correnti to read the first line of the ballot language, which states, "For the purposes of implementing the building im-provement plan recommended by the Citizens' Advisory Committee for Facilities by eliminating out-of-date conditions in all district buildings ...."

Superintendent Tim Ricker said that the building improvement plan directs the district to air condition all occupied buildings.

"Which is really for 99.9 percent of those people going to vote, other than people on the committee and their spouses and their best friends, really wouldn't understand what the building improvement plan recommended by the Citizens Advisory Committee is," Correnti said.

Correnti voted to recommend that the board approve the project.

In other business, committee members elected Correnti to serve as the new vice chairman. At the committee's Oct. 15 meeting, members had elected Applegate, a retired teacher, as the new vice chairman replacing Gloria Brazell, a Margaret Buerkle Middle school teacher, who had served in that role since the committee's second meeting in March 2001.

Brazell had to step down from office because of a recently approved Board of Education regulation that prohibits any district employee or board member from serving as either chairman or vice chairman on the Oversight Committee.

It is this same regulation that kept Applegate from serving as vice chairman of the panel for more than one week. Even though she no longer is a teacher, she is a part-time district employee. She still acts as a district substitute teacher.

"By technical interpretation of the charge and the rules that we are working with, that does make her ineligible to serve in that leadership capacity," Van Gronigen said.

Levine had volunteered himself for the position, he said, if no one else would do it. However, he said, if elected, both the chairman and himself would be employees of A.G. Edwards & Sons Inc. — the investment firm that served as underwriter for the issuance of the $83.7 million in certificates of participation used to fund Proposition P. Van Gronigen is a senior vice president and director of training at A.G. Edwards.

Levine is employed by a subsidiary of A.G. Edwards working with technology, but neither of them were involved in the issuance of the certificates for Proposition P.

Still, Levine said he felt "bad" having two A.G. Edwards employees sitting in both Oversight Committee leadership roles and requested other committee members to offer nominations.

Karen Johnson, an original committee member, then nominated Correnti. He accepted the nomination and was elected vice chairman by acclamation.

The vice chairman's duties include leading meetings and reporting to Board of Education members when the chairman

is unable to do so.

Committee members were scheduled to discuss Proposition P projects and Blades, Beasley and Point Schools, that evening.

However, McCarthy Construction and Dickinson Hussman representatives said they needed more time to gather information for committee members.

The committee is scheduled to discuss those projects at its next meeting tentatively scheduled at 7 p.m. Nov. 12 in the boardroom in the Administration Building, 3120 Lemay Ferry Road.

Voters in November 2000 approved Proposition P, a nearly $68.4 million districtwide building improvement program funded by a 49-cent tax-rate increase.

A revised Proposition P budget totaling more than $86.7 million recently was approved by the Board of Education. The revised budget totals $14,325,000 more than the original Proposition P budget of $72.4 million that was approved by the Board of Education in October 2001.

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