Archive for Thursday, November 20, 2008

Economy hinders USD 491 projects

Work continues at the site of the new elementary school. High bids and national economic woes caused the Eudora USD 491 Board of Education to make changes to the project.

Work continues at the site of the new elementary school. High bids and national economic woes caused the Eudora USD 491 Board of Education to make changes to the project.

November 20, 2008

The Eudora USD 491 Board of Education made $275,000 in cuts and changes to the new elementary school.

The cuts were made Thursday during the monthly board meeting and come as a result of bids on other areas of the $45 million bond package coming in higher than expected, as well as the state of the national economy.

The new elementary school will cost about $27 million. It will the home of the district’s first through fifth grades and is to open in fall 2009. It is the largest project associated with the $45 million bond issue passed by Eudora voters last November.

“We plan to deliver all of the projects as close as they were designed,” Grosdidier said. “Since the game has changed (because of the economy), that becomes increasingly difficult with each passing day. But that has been our goal from the beginning and it continues to be our goal.”

The cuts that were made were aesthetic cuts the board said wouldn’t impact student and staff safety or instructional integrity.

Items cut or changed include a climbing wall, the caliper of trees on the property, an LED sign in front of the building, some cabinetry in classrooms and the amount of asphalt in a parking lot located on the east side of the property.

“Those cuts will in no way, shape or form compromise the educational programming that takes place inside that building,” Grosdidier said.

A change also has been made to the expansion at the middle school. There were to be six regular classrooms, one special education classroom and one science lab. There now will be just five regular classrooms, but the designs make it possible for a classroom to be added at a later date if needed.

“There might be a perception that there have been cuts made to those project budgets, but that is not the case,” Grosdidier said. “The amount of funds are the original funding numbers that were with the bond estimates. It’s the cost to do things at this time (that has changed), plus the original estimates may not have been as sound as we had hoped.”

The sputtering economy also has effected financing for the project. The board heard from Steve Shogren, a representative from investment banking firm George K Baum, regarding the selling of a $11.25 million bond.

Bonds are more easily sold if they are insured because it allows for a lower interest rate for the seller. But some companies that insure bonds also have gone out of business, so finding a company to insure the bonds could be difficult.

The district can self-insure the bond for $90,000 or wait until the Dec. 11 board meeting to learn if a private company can insure the bond.

If a private company cannot insure the bond, a temporary note of about $6 million could be issued in December.

The Board decided against self insuring the bond because it would allow for a lower interest rate and a possible taxpayer savings of $100,000 year.

While the situation in which the district finds itself certainly could be better, Grosdidier said the strategy that will be employed is sound.

In other actions, the board:

• Approved naming the new elementary school “Eudora Elementary School” and the early childhood center “Eudora West Early Childhood Family Center.” The board still might recognize individuals through naming parts of buildings or establishing a hall of honor.

• Heard from Terri Long, who asked the Board to consider establishing a golf team at the high school. Long said all Frontier League schools except Eudora have such a team. The board said EHS Activities Director Dave Durkin would look into the matter.

• Simplified the district’s crisis plan order to make it easier for staff to respond to it.

• Approved the change order for fire hydrants and depth of sewer and water lines on the site of the new elementary school because of city requirements.

• Approved the audit report from Mize Houser.

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