Wednesday, February 11th, 2009
By Janie Southard
Low bids allow additional projects at St. Marys school
  ST. MARYS - Ahead of schedule and under budget is good news on the new school being constructed.
Bids recently came in at a total of $23.2 million, which is $4.4 million under estimate. Because of the low bids, the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC) this week approved additional projects that will relieve the district of more than $1.6 million in expense.
The OSFC earlier had indicated to the district that the state might pick up some of the cost of the Locally Funded Initiatives (LFIs), which are projects that the district was expected to fund 100 percent, if bids came in low.
"They told us their decision would be based on how our bids came in ... Since the bids are low, we got approval this week on several LFIs," said Kurt Kuffner, district business manager.
In fact, of the eight LFIs under consideration, the OSFC approved five, gave a "maybe" on two and vetoed only one (terrazzo flooring). The biggest state approval came on the $1.3 million geothermal well field, which school officials had planned to fund with a loan.
Other LFIs approved for state funds are special roofing and electrical work and a decorative entrance.
"So, instead of having more than $1.6 million to fund locally, our share will be $650,110," Kuffner said Tuesday morning.
Kuffner added that the actual ways and means of the local money still needed for the LFIs have not yet been determined. But some options could be interest on the bond sales and/or certain project contingencies (budget allowances for unpredicted expenses), he said.
Whatever happens at the construction site soon will be available for live, 24/7 coverage thanks to the district's new webcam to be installed on Murotech's tower. (Murotech is a company located on McKinley Road, facing the construction site across U.S. 33.)
The district is paying for the equipment and installation ($2,704) through SecurCom of Minster. The webcam will be operational and linked from Murotech's network to the district Web site (www.smriders.net) by March 1.
That is also the date when contractors will begin digging the building foundation. Kuffner commented that the building is expected to be under roof and walls up by January 2010 allowing the next phase of internal structures and systems.
Along with the many external projects underway, administrators, staff and teachers are busy preparing for the academic and cultural changes in the district that will begin with the 2010-11 school year. This will be first time for the middle school concept, an area with which new superintendent Mary Riepenhoff has a great deal of experience. Kuffner commented her background as middle school principal in Van Wert highly recommended her to the superintendancy.
"There will be lots of changes in bringing in new technology, educating the parents, making traffic flow smooth, coordinating schedules .... and even lunch. It will be a big job scheduling lunch periods to feed 1,200 students," Riepenhoff said, adding that students will not be permitted to leave the premises at lunchtime.
She said teachers and staff will make up "lots of to-do lists."
"Very soon we'll begin setting update meetings for the community to talk about the new building and the renovations at East and West. Certainly the webcam will help everyone see work at the site," she said.
The board of education meets at 7:30 p.m. tonight in the municipal building for the regular meeting where it is expected they will approve the bids as recommended by the construction manager and architects.
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