PN-G multi-purpose building on pause, again

Published 5:45 pm Tuesday, June 9, 2015

GROVES — The plan to construct a multi-purpose building using a mixture of donated money and district funds at Port Neches-Groves High School hasn’t been forgotten — it’s just on pause for now.
Board members on Monday mulled the idea of moving $690,000 from the general fund to the capital projects fund for the building that, at last estimate, could cost in excess of $1 million. But without a clear picture of what the actual cost would be and what they would be getting, the issue was tabled.
The matter at hand — more money is needed. The district can now either go out for bids again or initiate a job order contracting program.
“Job order contracting is an avenue for school district to perform certain projects but can’t be used to construct a new building, Cheryl Hernandez, business manager, said. “But they can use it on pre-fab.”
A pre-fabricated metal building could be a cost savings, Trustee Melanie Miller suggested.
Last month trustees tossed out all of the bids for the building where bids ranged from 773,750 to $885,000 for a watered down version of the facility that’s just 35 yards in length and without turf or plumbing.
Dohn LaBiche of The LaBiche Architectural Group Inc. explained some items were cut from the project to lessen the cost but even with this knowledge there is a 20 percent performance bond and construction insurance which adds to the total project.
Trustee Eric Sullivan, owner of e.Sullivan Advertising & Design, suggested selling advertising on the backs of football tickets as well as signage along the stadium fence, an idea that may be considered in the future.
President Jim Walters worried that the donors, especially the two who pitched in $250,000, would be disappointed to see not a multi-purpose facility but a storage building instead.
The idea of the district pitching in more money to the project comes at a time when Port Neches-Groves Independent School District is working with a $2.8 million deficit budget.
“We have few new kids coming in and is looks as if the plant values are going down. We haven’t heard anything about getting new money from the legislature,” Hernandez said to which Superintendent Rodney Cavness added their will be very little money from that source. “You are going to take money out of the fund balance this year and the next year and the next year. You will generate new revenue.”
New templates for school funding haven’t been released yet but is another consideration for the district to worry about. Board policy states the district must keep three months operating expenditures or about $10 million on hand and according to the district’s bond rating agency they should keep over and above that or at least half of the taxes of their number one taxpayer.
Hernandez said that once they start construction, by law, they must finish it.
The timing of the discussion comes when committees are touring the district’s aging elementary schools in anticipation of a possible bond. Talks of portable buildings on campuses and leaky roofs have been ongoing and is another expenditure trustees will face in the future.
Also during the meeting trustees heard reports regarding the need to attract bus drivers and custodial workers. Some of those employees were on hand and voiced concern of want versus need.
“I think it’s (multi-purpose building) is a want, not a need,” K.K. Gloede said regarding the district pitching in money to the project. “We need elementary schools and that’s not a want, that’s a need.”
Russ Gloede doesn’t believe the high school needs the building he, and others, called a “single purpose facility.” The size of the proposed building, he said, would not be large enough to accommodate golf, band or the drill team.
And, he added, some football players such as those in the 1970’s, didn’t have protected areas to practice and they went to state championships such as Jeff Cooley.
Cooley said he’d be in favor of the project to building the multi-purpose facility if it were 100 percent privately funded and if it wouldn’t take away from the needs of the elementary schools.
The donations of $250,000 plus another $120,000 from the Athletic Booster Club were made public during a board meeting in October 2014 with the idea of constructing a metal building approximately 50 yards in length for athletics and other groups to use during inclement weather. LaBiche Architectural Group were hired the following month for architectural/engineering services. The district pitched in $120,000 toward the project.
Then trustees learned the cost would exceed the amount of money on hand and would only pay for a watered down version of the original plan.
The issue will be revisited at a later date.
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