BY BUDDY NEVINS
Cost overruns at Fort Lauderdale High could be one more reason for voters to question the ability of the school system to manage $800 million in new bond money.
Minutes after approving the bonds this week, School Board members were presented with roughly $700,000 in bills from increased renovation costs – formally called “change orders” – at the high school. Other cost increases had been approved last month, ballooning he $16 million project to $17 million so far.
Cost overruns are running double what had been planned.
First planned 12 years ago, the remake of Fort Lauderdale High’s now won’t be completed until later this year.
Donna Korn: Questions cost overruns
Member Donna Korn was listening to the presentation by the schools’ construction managers when they casually mentioned that $17 million wouldn’t be the final bill for the long delayed project. Costs are expected to increase another $300,000 before the project is completed, the staff said.
She had a long telephone conversation with staff about the cost overruns earlier in the week and was never told more increases were coming.
“We missed that we had additional change orders coming,” Korn said. “How did we miss that? We had an extensive call yesterday.”
Greg Boardman, the school project manager, answered: “I don’t remember you asking..”
Korn fired back that it was clear during the conversation she had an intense interest in the costs of the project:
“I certainly don’t expect staff to be a mind reader. (But) if you have a Board member having a conversation with you and they have a heightened concern over the $1 million in changing orders already in front of us…When you are aware there is another $300,000 coming in change orders, I’m not sure how that escapes the conversation. I wouldn’t know to ask that question. It is making me really concerned…Is there something else I didn’t ask that’s out there that is going to come and surprise us?”
Boardman and his boss, schools construction chief Shelley Meloni, didn’t answer “yes.” But they didn’t say “no,” either.
These are the folks we are trusting to manage the upcoming $800 million bond issue!
The bonds still need voters approval in November.
Boardman and Meloni blamed the increased costs on surprises they found behind the walls and under the floors of the 60-year-old high school.
Korn pointed out that the school staff always knew the building was old and there shouldn’t have been this many surprises.
With her eye on the bond issue, member Nora Rupert asked that staff what they had learned from the Fort Lauderdale High cost overruns?
To plan better in the future, Meloni answered.
We’ll see in November if the voters believe her.