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Cost of roof work at Fairfield Court Elementary greatly underestimated

Cost of roof work at Fairfield Court Elementary greatly underestimated

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The roof replacement at Fairfield Court Elementary School is going to cost more than twice what Richmond school officials initially estimated in the spring when the leaks became so bad they had to move students out of the school.

At the time, they pegged the cost of replacing the roof at $140,000.

In a presentation to the School Board this week, Chief Operations Officer Tommy Kranz, who joined the school system after the estimate was submitted, said the real cost will be $378,200.

“You don’t have to know anything about roofs to know that work would cost more than $140,000,” he told the board. “My 7-year-old grandson could have told you that.”

Because the school system’s maintenance budget is so small and the amount of work to be accomplished so large, Kranz asked the board for permission to shuffle the order of priorities.

He asked for, and was granted permission to, take $162,300 away from work at Thompson Middle School and $75,900 from other smaller projects across the city.

The cost of the work at Thompson had been overestimated, so the transfer of funds won’t affect the school.

School Board Chairman Donald L. Coleman, of the 7th District, said Kranz requested a special School Board work session solely to discuss facility needs in the city. That meeting will occur soon, but a date has not been set.

“I think what we have is a new person in town, and he thinks his integrity is on the line,” said Coleman. “It’s painful to hear, but he’s got to tell you the truth.”

Coleman credited Superintendent Dana T. Bedden, who started in January, with quickly creating a culture in which brutal honesty, no matter how hard to hear, was expected.

“I think he wants people to be up front and honest,” said Coleman.

Since-departed school administrators pegged the cost of fixing city schools at $100 million over 10 years, but Kranz has said that figure is too low.

He has yet to come up with a new total, but he has said the city’s schools are in worse condition than any schools he has seen in a career that includes work in Louisiana, Florida and Tennessee.

The school system has a capital improvement budget of $7.05 million for this fiscal year, which runs through June 30. That’s an increase from the previous year’s allotment of $685,000, but it is far short of meeting the ongoing needs of the school system.

Kranz received board permission to use $1 million of this year’s budget to update the fleet of school buses, nearly half of which are older than the national standard for replacement, leaving a little more than $6 million to fix nearly four dozen school buildings.

The amount of work needed, he said, “makes that $6 million look like pennies.”

The roof at Fairfield Court failed in April after weeks of heavy rain. The damage was so bad, the entire school was closed and the students and staff were sent to the old Clark Springs Elementary School building.

Kranz said the roof replacement over classrooms should be completed before the school year begins in September. The roof over the cafeteria should be completed by the end of September.

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