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Gibraltar School Board Members Question Cost Overruns

Unexpected costs continue to plague the remodeling project at Gibraltar High School. At its Oct. 14 meeting, the Gibraltar Board of Education discussed three costly additions to the facilities project that were not included in its successful 2018 facilities referendum: a new fire-alarm system for $28,988; a public-address system throughout the building for $24,643; and structured cabling installation for internet and multimedia in the high school library and surrounding classrooms for $34,200.

The additions are outside the scope of the district’s remodeling budget, said Superintendent Tina Van Meer. Board Treasurer Fred Anderson questioned why the costs weren’t included in the $4.2 million referendum.

Director of Technology Andrew Moore said that Somerville Architects & Engineers, the firm that presented original plans for the remodel, suggested it would be more cost effective for the school to manage those aspects of the project in-house.

“It’s cheaper if I’m the project coordinator,” Moore said.

Board member Stephen Seyfer said those costs should have been included in the referendum. Although it may be cheaper for the school to manage the additions themselves, the funds must now come from the regular budget, pulling from other areas.  

“I’m understanding that there’s a reason why this was not included under the referendum,” Seyfer said, “but I just believe at this point, that’s faulty.”

To save money on outfitting the new library and media center, the school plans to reuse some equipment from the old library and salvage some from its temporary classrooms.

Moore assisted Lehman Electric in drawing up a plan for a structured cabling installation. He presented a plan that will provide teacher stations with dual internet access (outlets in opposite corners of the room) for a more flexible learning space, as well as an interactive flat panel and in-floor internet access in the library.

“We’re expecting all of these classrooms to be state-of-the-art, with an interactive flat panel and all the requisite technology that supports that,” Moore said.

Despite concerns about cost overruns, the board unanimously approved all three expenditures. It also approved short-term borrowing from Nicolet Bank in the amount of $2 million for cash-flow purposes. 

Construction Updates

The high school remodeling project is on schedule for completion in 80 days, Van Meer said. The roofing is completed; the last windows have been installed; and HVAC units will be installed and ready by the end of October after the drywall is finished.

Painting was scheduled to begin by Oct. 17. In order to be proactive about any odors from the paint, the school has notified families that painting will be occurring.

Contractors have set up a ventilation system that will run during the day to help eliminate those odors, Van Meer said. Safety sheets that detail what kind of paint chemicals may be present are available in the secondary office for parents and community members to read. That message will also be sent to families in the school.

Outdoor carpeting was installed on ramps to reduce any danger of slipping and falling while accessing the portable classrooms.

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