During a special school board meeting on May 29, Superintendent James Bridges informed the district trustees that the district did not have the funds it needed to complete the two jobs, citing unforeseen construction costs that put the projects at a deficit.
“What’s happened in this project is that with Jefferson sitting in the county, we don’t have sewer lines, we don’t have water lines at the school site, we don’t have fire suppression on the campus,” he said. “There is a lot they have to do on a county site school as opposed to a city site, where you can connect to the basic services. The site prep is costing close to $7 million, which is much larger than a school being built in a city limit.”
Cleanup of the Jefferson School site is expected to begin in the next week or two, with demolition slated for early to mid-August.
Due to the construction delays, the opening date of the new Jefferson School campus of August 2015 will likely be delayed.
“I think September-October (completion) is more realistic,” Bridges said. “A lot is going to depend on the weather next year. If they are able to build all the time like it was this year, we should probably open August 2015. If we have a rainy year, that’s what’s going to push us back.”
Bridges told board members on May 29 that they could work with the money they had and cut out the Traina gymnasium project or they could sell more bonds.
One trustee, Pete Carlson, questioned how the students could go from having a gymnasium to going without one on campus.
“That’s unacceptable,” Trustee Debbie Wingo said of eliminating the gymnasium.
According to Bridges, Traina has a building with a stage that serves as a cafeteria, but it has no buildings with indoor basketball or volleyball courts. Building a gym would give students a separate place for athletic competitions, he said.
The board voted unanimously on May 29 to keep the Traina project on the priority list.
According to Bridges, the district has accessed only about $30 million of the $35.4 million Measure J bond passed by Jefferson voters in 2010.
Due to an economic decline, the district was initially unable to sell the remaining bonds. A new evaluation of the district has shown that it can complete the bond sales at no additional cost to the taxpayers, the superintendent said.
“What we’re looking to doing is selling an additional bond from that, approximately $3 million,” he said.
The board has scheduled two public hearings on the bond sale, this Tuesday and July 15. Officials hope to sell the bond in early August.
“I think that the board made a good choice (to keep the Traina gym project), because what they did will benefit all the students in the school district, assuring they all have a good education,” Bridges said. “It requires us to go after and sell those additional bonds, but it will benefit all students, and that’s what really needed to happen.”
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