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High school projects in Wise County might come in under budget

Steve Igo • Feb 12, 2013 at 10:20 AM

WISE — The Wise County School Board on Tuesday deferred consideration of erecting new lights at the athletic field behind the current Central High School as well as a discussion about the potential of putting a school resource officer in every school.

The board was informed the high school construction projects, while set back a little due to weather, are more or less on schedule and expected to open as planned. The school division is building a new Union High School in Big Stone Gap and a new Central High School in Wise — as well as making major upgrades to Eastside High School in Coeburn.

Superintendent Jeff Perry told the board recent bouts of wintry weather have “of course, had an impact” on the Union and Central projects, but both are expected to open in January of next year. The Union project is still ahead of Central, because construction on Union began months earlier than Central.

In spite of some minor weather delays here and there, Perry said, “We still feel the schedule is good, and we’re still on target for next January.”

Because most of the work at Eastside involves interior upgrades, the weather hasn’t been as much of a factor. In the past couple of weeks, Perry said, much progress has been made on Eastside’s new administrative and science wings.

Eastside students have been attending the old St. Paul High School while upgrades to the former Coeburn High School have been under way, and that school is to open for students at the start of the 2013-14 school year in August.

Perry also discussed the potential of a surplus from the projects. While any savings won’t be known until this fall, Perry said the projects may be able to return $1 million or so back to the Board of Supervisors, one option for any leftover funds. The school board might also want to ask supervisors to allow the school division to retain any excess funds, should they be realized, for other capital needs, Perry said.

Perry said his administration will also ask the board to endorse an offer by Ballard Construction, which is leading the high school projects, to “buy out” part of the contract to equip the new high schools rather than deal with an assortment of subcontractors. By giving Ballard the lead on acquiring and installing all furnishings, fixtures, equipment and “virtually everything it would take to start school,” Perry said the offer can be as cheap, or cheaper, than the school division handling that task itself.

Ballard and Perry’s administration project an ability to pare a budgeted $5.2 million for the equipage part of the projects down to $4.4 million with the offer.

The board postponed a discussion on school resource officers because John Schoolcraft was absent on Tuesday. Schoolcraft has urged his fellow board members to consider placing an SRO in each of the county schools. Currently, three SROs are staged out of the high schools and visit the elementary and middle schools in those attendance areas on an as needed basis.

Board Chairman Nolan Kilgore said a vote to erect new stadium lights at the old J.J. Kelly High School football field will likely be on the agenda next month. The old lights need to be dismantled because of safety concerns. Perry said replacing the lights might cost about $125,000.

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