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East County Wednesday, Oct. 14, 2020 2 weeks ago

Lakewood Ranch-area school capital projects might accelerate

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School District of Manatee County wants to take advantage of lower interest rates.
by: Liz Ramos Staff Writer

Several East County schools could see improvements sooner than expected as the School Board of Manatee County considers borrowing money to accelerate construction projects.

If the board chooses to approve a resolution that would allow the School District of Manatee County to borrow $100 million, the district could accelerate work on six capital projects, including a renovation and addition at both Tara Elementary School and Carlos E. Haile Middle School.

The board will decide whether to approve the resolution at its Oct. 27 meeting.

Tim Bargeron, the associate superintendent of finance for the district, said COVID-19 has provided an excellent opportunity for the district to borrow money with a 2.36% interest rate and a construction inflation rate of 7%.

The district could save about $8 million if the district borrows money to complete the projects now in comparison to waiting years to start the projects.

“We can borrow at a low cost, and with the projects that we’re suggesting we expedite, the savings by avoiding inflation exceeds the cost of borrowing,” Bargeron said.

Borrowing money has other benefits as well, Bargeron said, including lesser cost of the annual upkeep of the older facilities and possible utility savings due to modernizing or replacing buildings.

The district wouldn’t borrow money until it begins to have significant costs to pay for the projects, Bargeron said.

“As soon as we borrow, we’re going to have to start paying interest, so we’re going to delay it as long as we can to minimize interest expense,” he said.

If the board approves the resolution, the district would be able to start advertising for architects and construction managers for Haile’s addition and renovation and would continue work on Tara Elementary in the spring.

If the district can accelerate these projects, the district can then plan to move up other capital projects in the capital plan.

With East County seeing fast growth, schools are needing more space for students.

“Classrooms are the least [costly] facilities for a school to build,” said Jane Dreger, the director of construction services for the district. “Gyms, auditoriums, media centers, cafeterias and kitchens are the most expensive. By putting additions at these schools strategically, we are allowing the district to grow without the significant cost of an added new school. To level off that ‘Go build new high schools, middle schools and elementary schools,’ we are adding onto the facilities whose core facilities can handle the additions.”

Dreger said a new middle school or K-8 school might need to be built in Parrish, but work wouldn’t start until possibly 2027.

Here’s what’s happening at schools in the greater Lakewood Ranch area:

 

Current projects

Gene Witt Elementary School

  • Budget: $23.4 million
  • Renovation and eight-classroom addition
  • Scope of work: new roof, ductwork, security cameras, ceilings, insulation and lighting.
  • Completed work: Buildings 2 and 6 are complete, traffic queuing.
  • Currently working on eight-classroom addition. Once completed, students will move into the addition, so work can be done on buildings 3 and 5.
  • Timeline: Buildings 2 and 6 were completed July 31; addition will be completed in December for teachers and students to move in January; total completion is expected in the summer of 2022.

 

Braden River Middle School

  • Tentative budget: $26 million
  • Renovation and six-classroom addition
  • Scope of work: comprehensive campuswide renovation, cafeteria expansion, remodeled science labs, remodeled administration area, single point of entry, six-classroom addition
  • Design development was presented to the board Sept. 22 and was presented to the School Advisory Council on Oct. 13.
  • The district is figuring out site utilization with the possible need to put portables on campus to house students during the renovation.

 

Lakewood Ranch High School

  • Estimated budget: $16.5 million
  • One-story building with 20 classrooms
  • Project expected to end in 2022-2023
  • Advertisements for request for qualifications for architects and construction managers are due Oct. 21.
  • The district hopes the new building will result in the removal of all portables on campus.

 

Accelerated projects pending board approval

Carlos E. Haile Middle School

  • Originally scheduled to start in 2024-2025
  • Moving up to 2020-2021
  • Renovation and 10-classroom addition
  • $40.96 million: Estimated cost of renovation and addition before certificate of participation
  • $31.25 million: Estimated cost of renovation and addition after certificate of participation
  • $9.71 million: Estimated inflation avoidance if borrowing money
  • Scope of work: HVAC renovation, new lighting, low voltage systems, ceilings, painting some casework

 

Tara Elementary School

  • Originally scheduled to start in 2023-2024
  • Moving up to 2020-2021
  • Renovation and four-classroom addition
  • $31.8 million: Estimated cost renovation and addition before certificate of participation
  • $26.18 million: Estimated cost renovation and addition after certificate of participation
  • $5.63 million: Estimated inflation avoidance if borrowing money
  • Scope of work: HVAC renovation, new lighting, ceilings, paint, roof, expansion of cafeteria, reconfiguring front office, four-classroom addition
  • Completed work: The district has received requests for qualifications for architects and construction managers and will now interview the firms.

 

Future capital projects in East County

R. Dan Nolan Middle School

  • Not yet scheduled
  • Planning for an eight-classroom addition

 

Freedom Elementary School

  • Not yet scheduled
  • Planning for an eight-classroom addition

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