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School Board seals the deal

By WILLIAM PAINE

william.paine@southwesttimes.com

The Pulaski County School Board met this week and took action regarding the construction of the new Pulaski County Middle School. First, the school board voted to accept the additional $911,102.18, allocated by the Pulaski County Board of Supervisors for construction of the new school.

Earlier in the year, the Pulaski County Board of Supervisors obtained a $47 million loan to construct the new middle school. When it came time to award the bid for construction, however, the lowest bidder, Branch and Associates, was still approximately $2.3 million over the original cost estimate.

Ben Motley of RRMM, is the chief architect on the project.

“The school board, the architects and the contractor were all working together to see what we could do about costs and it was a bit of a challenge because we developed this project with a kind of restrained attitude anyway,” he said. “And so there wasn’t a lot of low hanging fruit that we could easily grab to get there. But we got there.”

Some of the cost cutting measures include opting for less expensive finishes for the floors and ceilings of the new school building. Changes were also made to the school’s plumbing scheme and it was agreed to use a less expensive lighting package which, according to Motely, still met the architect’s performance standards. There will also be a delay in the construction of the track which will encircle Pulaski County Middle School’s athletic field. The track will be graded but drainage features and paving were put aside until more funds become available in the future.

By changing these aspects of the project, RRMM Architects and Branch and Associates were able to cut costs of construction of the new middle school by $1.3 million. That still left the project nearly one million dollars short.

The Pulaski County Board of Supervisors then agreed to take the interest accrued on the original $47 million loan and use it to fill the funding gap. This measure will ensure no additional debt added and no additional tax increase for Pulaski County citizens.

Halfway through the meeting, Motley brought the paper work awarding Branch and Associates the building contract. The school board voted unanimously to award the contract to Branch and Associates and school superintendent Kevin Siers signed the necessary papers.

Construction of the new middle school is ongoing but it is behind schedule largely due to one of the wettest September’s in recent memory. Branch Civil is currently installing sediment basins and pipes as well as performing drilling and blasting work on-site. Work on the main building pad is expected to be complete by next week. The main campus area, excluding the football field and track, is expected to be completely graded around Thanksgiving.

Despite the delays, Brandon Taylor of Skanska, the company that oversees the project, still expects all work to be complete by July 2020.

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