Tuesday, April 13, 2004

School board rejects overseer plan

Four firms would have supervised new construction

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Cincinnati Public Schools board on Monday rejected a proposal by the superintendent to have a group of firms oversee the district's $1 billion school construction project.

The board in August approved the concept of hiring a program manager to keep the building project on time and on budget, but some members recently raised questions over the cost, estimated at up to $6.9 million for a three-year contract or $16.4 million for the 10-year project.

They reaffirmed their support of the concept Monday, but some members also worry the four firms selected by the superintendent's management team would duplicate services already being provided by the district's own staff. The vote was 5-2 against the contract.

"The job will get done," Superintendent Alton Frailey said after the meeting. "We don't have an option. We now have to revisit how to go about managing the program."

In addition to overseeing the project's budget and timeline, the firms, headed by Parsons Brinckerhoff Ohio Inc., would work to improve the percentage of minority-owned firms participating in the building project, coordinate relocation of students and staff during school moves, oversee site safety plans, develop a communication plan for the project and other tasks.

Frailey, in asking for support for the contract, said his own facilities staff is not equipped to oversee the project, which includes building and renovating 66 schools.

He said he's now concerned about dipping into the district's general fund to pay for additional district staff to manage this project instead of using money from the $480 million bond issue voters passed in May for school construction.

District officials had said the program manager could be funded from interest earned on bond sales, the sale of a surplus school building and other funds. They also hoped to save money by using the firms to manage the project.

Board members, however, questioned whether interest from the sale of those bonds could be used to pay for the management firms, as the district administration proposed.

Board member Sally Warner said the money is already earmarked for inflationary costs on building being built in the latter segments of the four-segment project.

"I do think we need a project coordinator," Warner said. "I don't think we can spend that much and I think we need to find the money elsewhere."


E-mail jmrozowski@enquirer.com

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