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Cost estimates for Ringgold projects jump

| Thursday, March 21, 2013, 12:56 a.m.

The Ringgold School District is enduring costly times – and renovation projects at the high school could rack up additional expenses.

Representatives from two engineering companies told the school board Wednesday that completing two of three improvement projects at the school would cost nearly double than the original estimates.

The three separate projects currently under evaluation are: masonry repair, installation of new temperature controls and dehumidification units for the pool area.

The board voted to move ahead with all three projects at its February meeting.

Matthew Franz, vice president of the engineering firm HHSDR, told the board he would be ready to submit bids for the brick and wall repair by mid-April.

However, along with James Vizzini of CJL Engineering in Johnstown, Franz lamented that a plan to replace the high school's pneumatic controls with more-efficient digital controls would increase from $350,000 to $550,000.

Both Franz and Vizzini said, after examining the site, that project would require a much larger scope of work – including replacement of 154 “VAV boxes,” which distribute air above the ceiling.

“Before proceeding any further, we wanted to bring this to your attention and possibly end up putting the cart before the horse,” Franz said. “If we were to start tackling a larger project in June, we may not finish before the students come back in the fall.”

Franz said the school might be able to “limp along” for another year with the pneumatic system in place before tackling the larger project.

Franz also said work on the pool area would more than double in cost of original estimates, from $150,000 to $330,000.

“I'm at a loss for words because I've seen this happen over and over,” board member Larry Mauro said. “I vote ‘no' for everything until we get a new estimate from someone else who's not going to double our price in a month.”

“These are just estimates, yes they did go up, but this was just part of a discovery period of getting involved with the larger scope of work and you haven't spent anything yet because you haven't bid anything yet,” Frantz replied.

“This is for your discussion and direction.”

“My opinion is this is why I prefer to build a new school instead of trying to fix things in the older buildings and renovate,” board president Mary Ann Bulko said.

“This is something we were told had to be done. … this is one reason I approved voting for a new (high school) building because I think this is going to be the story anytime we have to repair or renovate and you run into so many variables when you go to do it.”

The board and administrators all agree that something must be done immediately with the pool area because it is not up to code.

One of those options, Vizzini said, was to install a hot-and-cold module for $40,000 to buy time until the board could decide on a more comprehensive project.

Mauro said one option would be to close the pool and have students use the Mon Valley YMCA or another facility.

Bulko asked Franz and Vizzini to make recommendations at the board's facilities committee meeting on April 3.

In other action, the board unanimously approved an out-of-court settlement resulting from a federal lawsuit.

The board declined to divulge any other information, including the amount of money.

Bulko said the suit has been going on “for years,” but she would not disclose any more information, saying it was a personnel matter.

The board also unanimously approved a motion to hire a special counsel at a rate of $140 per hour, upon recommendations by the administration and to accept the contract of new chief of security Clayton Shell.

Mauro initially cast the lone “no” vote on Shell, but changed his vote so the board could be unanimous.

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-684-2635.

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