Waterford High renovations near completion

Renovations and additions to Waterford High School should be completed or scheduled for completion by April 30, when Waterford school district's contract with O&G Industries for construction management ends.

The district anticipates project costs will ring in below the $68 million in funds authorized by voters for the construction. Unused funds now total roughly $220,000 and may increase depending on the outcome of certain predicted expenditures.

The revamped, technology-laden high school opened its doors in April.

Alan Wilensky, chairman of the School Building Committee overseeing project spending, said district capital projects usually come in under budget by design.

He said the high school project is no different.

"We continue to look at the needs of the building and the budget," he said.

O&G Project Manager Gus Kotait said at the committee meeting Tuesday that the project was 94 percent complete. When the O&G contract ends, buildings and grounds staff will take over remaining tasks.

Recent expenditures have been limited to the finer, less expensive points of construction. These costs include items such as repairs to water lines damaged during building construction and adding a third camera to the auditorium.

Tuesday, the committee consented to $20,000 in item costs, a sharp drop compared to the more than $200,000 in changes approved at a meeting in July.

The project is funded two parts by taxpayer money and one part with state grants. March 15 marks the final bonding for the high school and other school capital projects. The series of projects was initiated in 2003, according to District Director of Finance Rudie Beers.

Beers said that $13 million in funds for construction of the new high school will be bonded, adding to an existing bond of $33.8 million and short-term loan of $10 million. The three loans fall into the debt service portion of the district's budget and are to be paid with taxpayer funds.

The total bond amounts to $15.9 million. Another $2.9 million is slated for bonding for capital projects at other schools. In budget projections, Beers assumes a 3.45 percent interest rate for the new debt.

Several items for the high school are still pending committee approval. Superintendent Jerome Belair said not all items may be necessary, and that the committee still needs to prioritize the possible expenditures.

Irrigation of sports fields is the "big ticket item" not yet approved, said Belair. A new in-ground sprinkler system would cost around $100,000, he said.

House lighting in the auditorium could also be relatively pricey.

Wilensky said at the Tuesday meeting that a fully-dimmable lighting system could cost upwards of $39,000. He said the auditorium may require fewer lights than accounted for in the estimate.

Some expenditures may come in under budget, liberating additional cash for final touches. Possibly over-estimated costs include close to $1 million set aside to pay interest on the short-term loan, $29,300 earmarked for future IT considerations and $5,000 slated for other contingencies.

The district recently saw a set of demolition costs come in $37,000 under budget. Belair said the district has also saved at least $300,000 by using maintenance staff to complete electrical and instructional technology work.

Belair said he was thankful to the community of Waterford for its support of the project.

"It's been a labor of love for a lot of people," he said.

t.townsend@theday.com

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