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Construction costs for western elementary school OK’d by Rowan commissioners

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — A bit over budget, construction of a consolidated elementary school in western Rowan County will proceed as planned after receiving support from the county commissioners Monday.

Initially, the county had agreed to provide $27.5 million to pay for the new school, which will consolidate students from schools in Woodleaf and Cleveland. But the cost — agreed to in 2014 — has ballooned to $27.83 million.

Earlier in June, Rowan-Salisbury school board Chairman Josh Wagner said cost overages could come out of the school system’s fund balance, which acts as a savings account.

Cost, however, was not the most discussed topic when the county commissioners discussed the school on Monday. In fact, commissioners Chairman Greg Edds said the increased cost is understandable.

“We always fantasize about projects coming in under budget, but three years later in an improving economy we’re seeing our own projects skyrocket,” Edds said.

To be within 1 percent of the initial amount agreed to by county commissioners is OK, Edds said.

Assistant Superintendent Anthony Vann said it’s tough to find contractors in certain trades currently because many of them are busy on other projects.

The most discussed part of the new school were construction contingencies that have been included in the cost. The guaranteed maximum price from Barnhill Contracting Co. included two contingencies — $1.14 million for the school system and $207,846 for the contractor.

County Manager Aaron Church said there is nothing wrong with the proposed costs for the western elementary school, but it is different from how county government handles its contracts.

Commissioners and county staff asked detailed questions about construction contingencies, including what might happen if that money is not spent.

Edds said any leftover money should be used to pay off the $27.5 million, which will likely be in the form of a bank loan. Vann said it’s possible the school board might want to use the contingency money, if any remains near the end of the project, to pay for additions or upgrades to the new school. He said classrooms would be one addition the school board might want to add, if money allows.

After roughly 20 minutes of conversation, the county commissioners unanimously approved the construction costs.

The new western Rowan County school is slated to be built near at the current site of Cleveland Elementary School.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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