The cost of the Boyertown Senior High School expansion project continues to rise.
On Tuesday, Feb. 4, the Boyertown Area School Board of Directors approved an increase of approximately $6 million to the project’s budget, bringing the total $61 million. This approval follows a recommendation made by the administration.
The recommendation passed by a vote of 4-3, with board members Christine Neiman, Paul Stengle and Robert Caso voting against the increase.
The budget, originally set at $55 million, has been raised following review of the site and meetings with staff. An estimated $1.3 million was added for adjustments to the design and $4.7 million has been added as contingency costs.
According to D’Huy Engineering, these adjustments will add value to specific areas of the overall design.
Approximately $440,100 of the $1.3 million has been added to reorganize and meet the educational needs of the Tech Prep/STEM program. More than $500,000 will go towards adjustments to the Life Skills/Special Education program, the band room, the fitness center and the ROTC which requires additional space. The design of the security, administration, guidance and health departments has been adjusted to increase effectiveness--the cost of which has been estimated to be $272,200. The final portion of adjustment costs will serve refined building square footage, scope, and required mechanical space.
James Clough of KCBA Architects stated that the traffic study still needs to be completed and approved by PennDot. The study has been delayed due to weather conditions.
Prior to the vote, Board Member Robert Caso asked what this approval would financially commit the board to.
“This authorizes the architect to proceed without exceeding 61 million,” said Superintendent Richard Faidley. “With our continued growth, the board has set forth an option to renovate the high school because it will serve all students. This is the best recommendation that we can make to move forward.”
Stengle, noting that he is relatively new to the process, shared several concerns.
“This project has changed regularly. I need to be convinced that there is no other way to deal with the expansion; I know the other options aren’t pleasant,” said Stengle, noting redistricting and cyber school. “I am concerned that we are moving ahead with this expansion with the unknowns. I need to be comfortable with a plan that maximizes the effect of the investment.”
He added that in a month or two, when PennDot’s requirements are made clear, he may feel more comfortable.
Caso recommended that the board should be “looking at a small ball,” and only do what is absolutely needed.
“Here we are again—over $55 million,” said Neiman. She questioned the whereabouts of the first traffic study results and why another one is being completed.
Clough and Faidley both clarified that the current traffic study is a continuation of the first study, a continuation as a result of discussions and requests by Colebrookdale Township.
“I think we are going to get a long useful life out of buildings that we’ve been maintaining for more than 80 years,” said Board Secretary David Szablowski in regards to the overall plan.
Board Member Barbara Hartford expressed her approval of the design prior to the vote, reminding the board that this expansion will relieve pressure from the elementary schools.
Hartford and Jill Dennin both made mention to the fact that this plan was submitted in order to receive reimbursement from the state.
“I’m hoping we can spend this $55 or $61 [million], and be done for a long time,” said Dennin. “The money that we are spending is the cheapest way of handling the overcrowding,”
“Right now we’re at $56.3, then plus contingency. I’ve drawn the line in the sand with costs,” said Board Member Ronald Christman. “There were people that paid for my education and my buildings, and for my children, now it’s time that I’m paying for people going through the district.”
He added that he is sensitive to those living on fixed incomes, but he also sees an educational need.
Board Member John Landino, echoing several of Christman’s comments, stated that he is conflicted and that his “vote is on a short leash.”
“This is not an unlimited budget and we do not have unlimited time. I will vote yes to see what comes out of traffic study,” said Landino. “I’m open to looking at other options to address population growth.”
The next meeting of the Boyertown School Board of Directors is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 11, at 7 p.m. in the Education Center.