Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Board picks firms to build schools

By Jennifer Mrozowski
Enquirer staff writer

The Cincinnati school board settled Monday on two firms to oversee the district's $1 billion construction project. The decision ends months of wrangling between the board and superintendent over the choice of firms.

Board members voted 4-3 to allow Treasurer Michael Geoghegan and Superintendent Alton Frailey to negotiate a two-year contract with Cincinnati-based CSA Group and Houston-based 3D/I. The firms will oversee the timeline and budget of the construction project. The contract is not to exceed $3.2 million.

Two weeks ago, the board deadlocked 3-3 on a team headed by the same companies. Board President Florence Newell was absent. Because of the tie, the measure did not pass.

Newell submitted a proposal Monday again headed by CSA Group and 3D/I, but the new proposal did not include several smaller firms that had been part of the last one. It passed, but not without protests from other members.

Melanie Bates said she felt the selection of the firms, made by an ad-hoc committee of the board, violated Ohio's open meetings law. Bates said the proposals were reviewed and decided in private session.

Newell disagreed, saying the five ad-hoc committee members opened the meeting to the public before individually stating their support for the two firms selected.

The committee "approved and implemented a process that was open and apparent," she said.

Board members Bates, Rick Williams and Catherine Ingram voted against the proposal.

Board members also agreed to begin negotiations for the acquisition of land at 14th and Walnut streets in Over-the-Rhine, as the site of the new Washington Park School, and the block south of Washington Park for a new K-12 arts school. The planned $52 million arts school will replace the School for Creative and Performing Arts in Pendleton and Schiel Primary School for Arts Enrichment in Corryville.

District officials would not disclose the estimated cost because of negotiations.

A private development group, the Cincinnati Center City Development Corp., had proposed the sites in June as part of a plan to redevelop Over-the-Rhine.

The plans included building a new Washington Park School at Walnut and 14th streets instead of Central Parkway and Elm Street. The new arts school, previously planned for a site adjacent to Music Hall on Elm Street, was moved to the Central Parkway and Elm site south of the park.

The development group envisions retail shops and a parking garage next to Music Hall.

E-mail jmrozowski@enquirer.com

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