FMS project will be set at $25.7M

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School Board scales back project after supervisors meet

By John Barnhart

Last week the Bedford County School Board reached a consensus on a $25.7 million expansion project for Forest Middle School.
    District 6 school board member Susan Kirby was the lone dissenting voice. District 7 school board member Martin Leamy was absent.
    The meeting took place on Thursday, Oct. 11, two days after a special called meeting, on Oct. 9, of the board of supervisors on funding for the project. The supervisors had agreed to a $22.5 million borrow and provided $1.7 million in money saved from the Liberty Middle School project. They also voted to set aside $500,000 per year  for  school capital improvement and the school board opted to use three years worth of this money to add a total of $1.5 million to the money available for FMS.
    Kirby objected to using this capital improvement money.
    Dr. Douglas Schuch, the school division’s superintendent of schools, said he had spent the two days between the meetings working with Ken Thacker, of VMDO Architects, to reduce the design scope of the project.
    “We were really pleased we got a definitive answer Tuesday night,” Thacker told the school board.
    The revised design still expands the school to a 1,200 student capacity and includes the new gym a majority of school board members wanted. The renovation on the first floor was reduced and a number of rooms will be repurposed. The clinic will remain where it is instead of being moved to the front door area.
    The new design eliminates maintenance that would have been done as part of the project. Installing new gas service and replacing the boiler were deleted. Replacing the roof, and the rooftop HVAC units, as well as replacing the carpet were deleted.
    Dr. Schuch said he understands that the extra capital improvement money provided by the supervisors is to be spent at the discretion of the school board and, if it is spent on FMS, it won’t be available for other capital projects. Randy Hagler, the school division’s chief financial officer, said the school division will still have money available for emergencies. The school division currently has $500,000 available earmarked for maintenance and Hagler expects to have an additional $500,000 available once leftover money from the previous school year is reappropriated.
    Thacker said some of the maintenance items, that were deleted, could be added back if costs come in lower than expected once bids come in in the spring.
    “I’m not going to say OK to anything over $24.2 million,” Kirby said.
    Kirby said this was the amount the supervisors had allocated for the project. She said she didn’t want to spend the additional capital improvement money on FMS in case another school needs it.
    “I don’t want to tell another school we can’t fix their HVAC or leaking roof because we put the money into a project that was more than it should be,” she said.