Barn, kitchen plans to be scaled back

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After about an hour’s worth of discussion, the Sealy ISD Board of Trustees decided to take a step back and examine the scope of the agriculture barn and culinary kitchen projects after all the bid proposals came back over budget.

The main discrepancies were in the soft costs of everything else that goes into the project on top of the regular fees and charges it takes to construct a new building.

“There was never any confusion about what the budget was, everybody was very diligent about it and it was just kind of working out some different information,” said the district’s project manager, Mike Zapalac. “Our base bids were anywhere between $2.9 to $3.47 million and that’s a stripped-down version. If you add classrooms and restrooms and the food service equipment back into it, which we kind of need, your true project cost is between ($3.8 to $4.1) million. We’re actually more than that, we have to add our contingencies so we’re 200% over, that’s kind of how it unfolded.”

“So how did we get here?” Zapalac went on to say. “That part is still very hard to answer. We started off with some numbers that we knew were solid; we knew buildings were built from these budgets. The process should have worked, we had a contractor on board advising the process … I know (the architect) never saw it coming because we asked for opinions of costs and never was there a true red flag or anybody putting us here, which is way above (our budget).”

Sealy ISD Board President Ryan Reichardt was similarly confused as to how the numbers didn’t match up.

“From our perspective, $2.8 million was brought to us. That was the number that was brought to us to say ‘Hey, this is what we need to go with these projects,’” Reichardt said. “Another $200,000 was pulled out of us, I pulled it out of us, I know I made the motion because no one else would, I remember clearly how we got to $3 million. That’s a big deal.

“I mean, we’re dealing with $800,000 worth of private money, dealing with $1 million worth of bond funds and we’re taking $1.2 million out of our savings account,” he continued. “We dipped from every avenue that we have available to us to get where we are, and we were told that’s what we’re moving forward with. Then the next action that we have is that we need $2.6 million more.”

Trustee Creed Roberts agreed that if that higher number been pitched initially, the projects would have gone in a different direction.

“If we would have known it was anywhere close to this a year ago this is a totally different project, right?” he said. “I mean, if it was $4.5 million a year ago we would have said holy smokes and now it’s $5.5 and it’s kind of like you come home and somebody knocked a lamp over and you got two kids at the house and you don’t know who to blame but the lamp’s still broken.”

By the end of the discussion between Zapalac, representatives of Brookstone Construction and JMB2 Architecture and the board, no action was taken other than a trip back to the drawing board to determine which pieces can be scaled back and what other adjustments can be made to reel in the project to a more feasible figure.

Despite the broken lamp and minor setback, Superintendent Sheryl Moore noted there is no excitement lost in the delay.

“I would love to see us do this in-house using all local people. What I’m envisioning is this beautiful old-time barn raising type place where everyone in the community contributes and feels like they’re part of it, for the barn and the culinary arts as well, I want that to be where we hold rotary, I want for people to say, ‘They have the best muffins,’ I want it to be a real source of pride for the community,” she said. “I’m more excited (after the no action) because I really feel like we’re going to do this as a community, there’s just something different about doing it that way as opposed to writing a check to somebody else.”

In other actions, the board also;

* Approved the resolution designating Hailiang Reinvestment Zone under chapter 312 of the Texas Tax Code, 6-0;

* Approved the board findings pursuant to chapter 313 of the Texas Property Tax Code regarding the Application for Value Limitation Agreement from Hailiang Copper Texas Inc., Comptroller Application #1327, 6-0;

* Approved an agreement under Texas Economic Development Act for a limitation on appraised value of property for school district maintenance and operation taxes with Hailiang Copper Texas Inc., 6-0;

* Approved an amended application for value limitation agreement under Texas Economic Development Act with Hailiang Copper Texas Inc., 6-0;

* Heard Selman and Sealy Elementary principals provide an update on board goal 1;

* Listened to the 2019-2020 safety audit and emergency operation plan process from Mary Gajewski;

* And discussed the parking situation at Sealy Elementary.

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