District will apply for technology grants

One board member said some new construction contracts were too high.
WARREN -- The city school district is applying for thousands of dollars of grants for new construction costs, even as some of the costs for buildings are exceeding estimates.
The board of education, at a special meeting Wednesday afternoon, passed a resolution approving the construction documents and authorizing the bidding for telephone, Internet and technology installation at three new school buildings.
Once the contracts are awarded, the district can apply for federal grants that could recoup up to 80 percent of the costs for installing the phone lines and new technology at the new Warren G. Harding High School and the two new kindergarten-through-eighth-grade buildings on Atlantic and Willard avenues, said Mark Leiby, Warren schools' executive director of technology. The estimated cost of the project is 2.4 million, said Bill Schurman of Carbone, Ozanne and Hammond of Canton, who is the senior manager for the construction project.
The U.S. Department of Education bases grants on the number of pupils who qualify for the free and reduced lunch program, Leiby said. This is the first year that Warren schools has had enough pupils to qualify for this technology grant program, he said.
Concerned about bids
Also during the meeting, board member Linda Metzendorf expressed concern that bids for construction on the new buildings are too high.
The district has now spent 2 percent more than it estimated on the Harding site and the Willard site, and has had to dip into the contingency funds for those sites. Harding, which is estimated to cost 45 million, has 2.2 million in contingency funds; and Willard, estimated to cost 17 million, has 884,931 in contingency funds. Contingency funds are money set aside for unforeseen events.
"I'm worried that people are looking at us as a cash cow because we're the last big project that might come around in this area for awhile," Metzendorf said.
Most of the contracts the district has awarded have come in at or below estimates, Schurman said.
"We've done very well with general trades, heating and cooling and plumbing," he said.
However, the district has found it more challenging to find contractors for the more specialized projects, such as technology, Schurman said. "There tends to be less local interest for those items," he said.
Two buildings left
The district still has two more buildings in its 153 million construction project that have not been started. Construction of the Jefferson School on Fifth Street Southwest will get under way in the winter of 2007, and construction of a school on Parkman Road Northwest will begin in the winter of 2008.
The kindergarten-through-eighth-grade school at the old Lincoln Elementary site on Atlantic Avenue Northeast will open this August, and that building's construction has not exceeded the district's estimates at this point, Schurman said.

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