The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Local News

April 17, 2014

Conneaut BOE approves contract for sports complex locker rooms

CONNEAUT — A majority of Conneaut Board of Education members Wednesday night approved a $268,000 contract to build locker rooms at Conneaut High School's new soccer and track/field complex.

Lakeland Management will handle the construction, which could be complete by early August, meaning they could also see duty by the Spartan football team in the fall.

The cost exceeds the budget for the project, but the CARE for Kids Committee, which has found contributors for a number of sports-related improvements in and around the football stadium — will pay the balance, committee member Mark Wheeler told the board.

"We've received more recent donations," Wheeler said. "We're very confident the gap we're facing will be accomplished. We're very, very close to budget."

The contract price initially was $19,000 over budget. A $2,000 donation from Superintendent Kent Houston, bestowed during the meeting, knocked the shortfall to $17,000.

The board voted 4-1 to proceed with the contract. Suzanne Bernardini was thrilled that locker rooms were on the way.

"We need to remind the public that the track team has not held home meets for many years," she said. "I'm very encouraged and very excited that the project will be completed."

Construction on the track/field complex began last fall, but has been delayed by inclement weather.

Board member Joan Norton said she was "very confident" the CARE for Kids group will deliver the remaining $17,000 as promised. Member Mike Kennedy also said he was comfortable with the arrangement.

Diana DiPofi cast the no vote, saying she felt it wrong to use taxpayer money to fund a project that's over budget at the start.

"Last month we rejected bids because they were over budget," she said. "To me it's not a hard decision. I wouldn't do it with my own  budget."

Wheeler said seeking bids a second time shaved about $50,000, or 16 percent, of the construction cost. That brings the overage to a level that CARE For Kids can handle, he said.

"With the priors bids we couldn't reach out that far," Wheeler said.

DiPofi was unconvinced. "It's much closer but still over our budget," she said.

Also, the contractor will not demand full payment at groundbreaking, providing plenty of time to pay bills, Wheeler said. The committee has $39,000 in cash on hand as a guarantee, Houston said.

Trying to re-bid a third time may not be as successful because companies are firming up their work calendars for the year, Wheeler said. Kennedy agreed, saying "They've crunched their numbers already and we would have to make changes in design."

While not designed for football use, the locker rooms will at least offer rest room facilities for the players, Wheeler said. The football stadium does not have its own locker rooms, and last year teams huddled under canopies at halftime.

"These facilities represent something better than we've had (for football) in the past 75 years," Wheeler said.

Houston told the board he understood the money gap was a concern.

"It's a stretch for all of us to make this happen," he said. "It's a tough decision."

Later in the meeting, the board unanimously agreed to take the first legal steps to place a 1.5-mill renewal of the district's permanent improvement levy on the November ballot. The measure would raise upwards of $250,000 annually to help with building maintenance and purchase textbooks, buses and technology.

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