SALINEVILLE Delays in construction frustrate school officials

The district is waiting for approval from the state commerce department.
SALINEVILLE -- An effort to undertake a $14.3 million school improvement and construction project has turned into a waiting game for the Southern School District.
Initially, the district had hoped to break ground on the project, its biggest ever, in June. Then the start date was pushed back to September.
Now it may be November before the project gets under way, Jeff Weekley, superintendent of this rural district on Columbiana County's southern border, said recently.
The delays have resulted from difficulty in getting the Ohio Department of Commerce's approval for construction plans submitted for the largely state-funded project.
There appears to be nothing wrong with the plans, Weekley said.
It's just that only one person at the state level is in charge of all plan approval, slowing the process, Weekley said. Construction bids can't be sought until the plans are approved.
"We just have to wait," said Weekley, who added that approval is expected at any time.
"I think everybody is getting frustrated with how long it's taking," he said.
Winter setbacks possible: If ground is broken by November, winter weather could further slow progress.
Had the project started on schedule, crews likely would have had building shells constructed before winter, meaning they could work inside and wouldn't be stymied by inclement weather. As things now appear, it could be late in 2003 before the project is finished.
K-12 building planned: The district plans to renovate and enlarge its junior-senior high school in Washington Township, converting it into a kindergarten-through-12th grade complex.
The job will include building a second cafeteria and a 300-seat gymnasium for elementary and junior-high pupils.
Putting all the district's nearly 900 pupils on one campus will allow the district to close its intermediate school in Salineville and transform its primary school on state Route 39 into administrative offices and storage space. District officials intend to sell the intermediate school.
The expansion and renovation is aimed at alleviating overcrowding and modernizing school facilities.
About $11.2 million in state funding will help pay for the project.
The remainder will come from the district.

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