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New TC school project moves forward

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By Leslie Moore

 

Two Kentucky companies might share an estimated $564,000 construction manager fee after Taylor County School Board members voted 4 to 1 at their regular meeting last Tuesday to hire two construction managers to carry out plans to build new schools.

The district facilities plan calls for building a pre-school through second grade building on the current middle and high school campus and a new high school on the district's KY 210 property. The middle and high school buildings would be remodeled, with the current TCMS building housing grades three through five, and the current TCHS building housing the middle school. In the plan, the elementary school building would no longer be used.

Taylor County Schools Superintendent Roger Cook recommended that Board members consider hiring two construction managers because the primary center and high school are both large-scale projects and will be built at two different sites.

Cook said the district will break ground on the new primary center first but hopes to start construction of the new high school shortly after, and that it would be impractical for one construction manager to constantly go back and forth between job sites.

"I want to spend every single penny that I can on this project local and we'll try to do it as long as we don't compromise the project," Cook said.

At their November meeting, the Board approved a proposal to rescind all previous construction manager decisions from when the Board appointed Russell Springs-based Branscum Construction Co. as the construction manager four years ago and to rebid the services. At the time, Cook said rebidding the services might bring in bids lower than the fee guidelines set by the Kentucky Department of Education. However, the four bids the Board received were the same amount as the state's maximum fee.

According to Cook, the district is hoping the district facilities plan can be funded with $30 million. According to the state's construction manager fee guidelines, the maximum fee a construction manager can make based on a project of this scale is 1.88 percent of the total cost of construction.

While all four companies that submitted bids could probably get the project done, Cook said, he told Board members they need to look at which companies have the most experience with this type of project and can do it in a reasonable timeframe.

Cook recommended the Board appoint Branscum Construction Co. to serve as construction manager for the primary center and Winchester-based Codell Construction Co. to serve as construction manager for the high school.

"We're kind of sharing the pie a little bit and what I said all along, we have local families working for Branscum and we even have a local person working for Codell too, so I'm just trying to be fair," Cook said.

He asked Board members if they are agreeable to having two construction managers from two different companies.

"If we can't agree [on one company], we're going to have to do that I think," Board member Jim Cheatham said. Board member Lillian Clark agreed.

Cook then said that Board members were at an "impasse" on selecting one company and that if they can't agree, it will set the project back another month.

Board member Deanna Hunt said she wants records to show that her vote was for Codell Construction Co.

Clark made a motion to appoint Branscum as construction manager for the primary center and Codell Construction Co. as construction manager for the high school. David Hall seconded the motion, which passed 4 to 1, with Hunt casting the lone "no" vote. Hunt hadn't returned a phone call to comment on her vote at press time.

Cook said the Board's decision to appoint two construction managers will now be sent to the state level for approval.

The Board also approved a BG-1 project application form, which must be approved before any construction can begin. This first phase of the project outlined in the BG-1 includes a primary center for preschool through second grade, renovation of the existing Taylor County Middle School into an upper elementary for grades three through five, renovation of the existing high school into a middle school and construction of the high school.

Cook said future phases will include a gymnasium, auditorium and athletic complex for the high school.

"As of right now, even with our nickel tax and with the match, we may not have enough money to build an auditorium and a gymnasium," Cook said. "It's possible but because I don't know what the general assembly will do with matching funds, I can't say that we have enough money to do that right now."

Cook said he feels good about the state deciding to match the district's nickel tax when the General Assembly convenes in January.

Hall asked Cook about changes in architectural plans.

Cook said the original plan was for a 700-student primary center and a 1,200-student high school, but both had to be scaled back some because of funding concerns. Now the plans have been changed to a 600-student primary center and a 1,000-student high school.

Cook said the district's available funding stands at $21.5 million and that most people think that is an "awful, awful lot of money" to build new schools. But because of prevailing wages, he said, it won't go as far as one would think.

Cook said the district might qualify for an urgent needs grant from the state because of Taylor County Elementary School's mold and mildew problem. He has already submitted environmental reports to the Department of Education.

As far as when construction can begin, Cook said that depends on when the General Assembly agrees to match the nickel tax, the state's approval of the plans and the weather.

"People expected us to have bulldozers out there the day after we got the nickel [tax], it doesn't work that way," Cook said.

He said construction could begin as early as February or as late as next summer.

Cook said construction bids could come in low, allowing the district to build the gymnasium, athletic complex and auditorium. And even if available funds don't allow for that, Cook said everything will be built ready for expansion so extras can be added as soon as funding becomes available.

"All academic needs would have to be taken care of first," Cook said. "If it takes all our money to build those, the rest will have to wait."

Read more from the meeting, including results of the district's TELL survey, in an upcoming issue.