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BoE to vote on new school contract May 12
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Six construction management firms are in the running to oversee the Liberty County Board of Education’s new middle school. Interviews are scheduled to begin Monday afternoon.
The approximate 135,000-square-foot school will be built on Fort Stewart and the BoE budgeted $20 million for construction costs.
Becoming the school system’s fourth middle school, it will be designed to accommodate about 900 students and is projected to open in time for the October 2010 arrival date of 10,000 soldiers and families, expected to arrive with the new 5th Brigade Combat Team.
School board members looked over 20 pages of the contract with project architect BRPH during a called meeting Thursday.
Aside from some of the legal language, school superintendent Dr. Judy Scherer assured the board it was a standard contract and said she hopes for board approval during its next meeting May 12.
Lack of diversity on the selection committee alarmed some board members last month and a vote to reject architect bids put the project in danger of missing the October 2010 deadline.
However, the board gave BoE administrators the go-ahead with BRPH at the last meeting.
“And we did, the very next day,” said deputy superintendent Cheryl Conley.
Conley provided the board with three and half pages of references on the southeastern architectural firm and reported they spent three to four hours in contract negotiation by phone.
“I think it’s a really good process,” Conley said. “Until you finish up, until it all falls out, you don’t know how it’s going to fall.”  
“This has been an intense process for the members of the committee — they’ve read long hours,” Scherer added.
BRPH proposed 5.42 percent of the estimated $19.5 million construction cost in its contract.
The county has been up in arms since word spread the Department of Defense may renege on plans to station another brigade at Fort Stewart.
All things considered, board member Marcia Anderson questioned Thursday whether the middle school will still be needed.
She said she did not want to see the board caught up in a legal hot water and suggested maybe waiting for assurance before signing the contract.  
“I'm worried, to a point,” Anderson said. “I’m just wondering if we need a clause in there that says if this brigade doesn’t come we would postpone it [the contract].”
“We really need the contract signed Tuesday at the meeting,” Conley said. “Because of our time restraint, we can’t stop in case it doesn’t go through.”
The board probably won’t sign on with a builder until next month, but the same goes for the construction manager contract.
“I’m good to go ahead with everything [but] if we have to bail, we can, without cost,” Anderson said.
The board decided to get a pre-contractual agreement with the construction manager at its May meeting — a good move, according to Rodger Osborne, director of facilities and maintenance.
“Pre-construction is just a small percentage of what the contract is,” Osborne said. “We do need to progress that far because of the timeline.”
Scherer said she recently met with garrison commander Col. Todd Buchs to discuss the work-ready program, but their conversation drifted to the same topic.
“He promised me he would not let me and he won’t let the board get hung out there with the school,” Scherer said.
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