KINGSPORT - A Kingsport City Schools consultant said this week the construction schedule for the new elementary school in the Rock Springs community is "way too aggressive," adding that he does not think the school will be open by August of next year.
KCS officials have been charged with opening a new 500-student elementary school in the Rock Springs community by August 2008. The Edinburgh group, which is building a 300-plus housing development off Rock Springs Road, donated the land for the new school, and city leaders are trying to bring the new school online at the same time as the development.
During a BMA work session Monday evening, Rick Russell, project consultant working with KCS, gave city leaders an update on the project and commented on the construction schedule for the school.
Russell said the architectural plans are expected to be completed this week and will go to the state fire marshal on May 3. Russell said the bid packet would then go out at the end of July.
"You will have 14 months of construction, but you need 22 months. I don't think you can do it. It's way too aggressive of a schedule," Russell said. "My concern is ... the construction time is very, very tight. I think the contractor will charge us handsomely to get it open."
Russell's comments came during a discussion on the geothermal heating and cooling system proposed for the new school.
Earlier this month, estimates on the new 90,000-square-foot school came in about $2.5 million over budget. School officials said one cost-cutting measure could be the elimination of the $1.1 million geothermal system. School officials also said the $1.1 million price tag was the maximum amount the system would cost and that it could come in less than projected.
However, city leaders requested more information about the the geothermal system before signing off on it. During Monday's meeting, KCS officials returned with more information, but not as much as they would have liked.
Director of Schools Richard Kitzmiller presented city leaders with a sheet of information about a geothermal system installed at Daniel Boone High School and the projected costs for two new elementary schools in Washington County.
According to that data, Daniel Boone saves $82,939 annually in energy costs. The sheet also states the two new schools - both 98,200 square feet - will cost $17.4 million and $19.1 million.
Kitzmiller said the payback at Daniel Boone on the geothermal system, compared to a contrasting system, was three years.
"They are convinced it seems to be working," Kitzmiller said of Washington County school officials.
BMA members, however, raised questions about the length of the payback, with Alderman Ken Marsh saying he has heard different payback numbers thrown around about geothermal systems, from seven years to 10 years.
"We need a lot more information before we make a decision on this," Marsh said.
Mayor Dennis Phillips agreed.
"If we miss a deadline, we'll miss it. I don't think the board should be asked to make a decision that involves a million dollars until we have a lot more information to go on," Phillips said.
Kitzmiller said if the new school is to open in August 2008, KCS needs a decision on the geothermal system "yesterday."
"It'll be a huge challenge to get the thing done," Kitzmiller said.
Marsh said a delay on the decision to approve the geothermal system does not slow down the project, adding that the architects could do an alternate design.
Russell said an alternate design could be done, but for an extra fee, and it would still delay the project. The plans coming forth this week include the geothermal system, and the actual cost for the project will not be known until drilling is complete in about two weeks, Russell said.
Kitzmiller said KCS is also expected to receive a study from Washington County comparing the geothermal system at Daniel Boone with a traditional heating and cooling system at David Crockett High School.
Kitzmiller said he would forward the study on to the city once he receives it.