12/19/05 — Duplin schools scaled back to deal with costs

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Duplin schools scaled back to deal with costs

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on December 19, 2005 1:47 PM

KENANSVILLE -- Engineers have scaled down their projections after construction costs have driven the price tag up $8 million to build new schools in Duplin County.

Under the new plan, the building project would only cost $1.5 million more if the cost of materials does not increase.

Consultant Robbie Ferris told the Duplin Board of Education last week that building materials are continuing to cost more, and he doesn't expect the inflation to stop or even slow down. To deal with the increased costs, he presented a revised plan for a new high school and a new elementary school that would have less square footage. That bill was still higher than the board originally planned.

The original estimate for the project was $43 million to build a new high school for students in the Warsaw, Kenansville and B.F. Grady school districts and a K-3 school near B.F. Grady Elementary School. The new high school would go up somewhere between the Guilford East plant on N.C. 11 and the Summerlin's Crossroads area.

The plan included some renovations at Charity Middle School, but Ferris said labor costs have not risen, and that project would not be as "material-intensive" as building the new schools.

He said updated costs for the project would be $51 million today, based on current prices of materials. With the cuts to the square footage at the proposed new schools, the cost would go down to $49.5 million.

Ferris said the average cost to build a new elementary school has gone up to $127 per square foot, and the cost to build a high school has risen to about $160 per square foot, compared to $113 per square foot a year ago.

The original plan for the new high school was 160,000 square feet, but Ferris said he has scaled that down to 140,000 square feet. The revised number is the guideline set by the state for new high schools serving about 745 students.

Ferris also said he redrew the new 66,000-square-foot elementary school to 63,700 square feet, which is the state guideline for elementary schools serving about 450 students.

The cuts were made in both schools in specialty areas like vocational space.

The plan could leave out the alternate football field house, auxiliary gym, concession stand and bleachers and add those items back in if the money became available later, he said.

The $1.5 million difference isn't that significant a savings because the materials cost per square foot has increased, Ferris said. For example, even with the cuts in square footage, the cost of the high school is still $3.2 million more than it was. The original projected cost for the new high school was $30.4 million. The revised cost with cuts in square footage has grown to $33.6 million.

School officials are counting on the lottery and an additional half-cent sales tax to help with building new schools. Duplin County's share of the lottery money has been projected at $1.3 million for each of the next two years. After that, the projected lottery revenue jumps to $4.9 million in 2008-09 and to $5.3 million in 2009-2010.

Ferris said even if the county bought land for schools right away, it would take a year for the plans to be ready for bidding to begin.