Wednesday, February 27, 2008

HEADS UP!! Two New Meetings

BOARD PRIORITIES
FEBRUARY 29, 2008
10:00 a.m. - 1:00 p.m.
Board room @ the Starkey Building
This meeting will be televised.
The Board of Education will be meeting with Ms. Kitty Blumsack
to discuss board priorities for the coming year.

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NEW HIGH SCHOOL
MARCH 4, 2008
9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.
Commissioners Office

The Board of Education will be meeting with the
county Commissioners to discuss the new high school.

18 comments:

Chris Ripley said...

Jennifer,

This week two elected officials with widely different points of view came out in favor of taking a second look at the cost of the planned new high school. I would ask that you join this group. We need to be sure the new high school serves the needs of the students, not the egos of the administrators.

Jennifer said...

Chris,
Hey good to hear from you. I am always open to finding less expensive ways of doing things, however, I am very much opposed to decreasing the quality (which will only cost us more in the long run, and I consider it a temporary fix) or delaying the building of this school. Our highschools are already busting at the seams. We had a little relief this year, actual enrollment was down drastically from what was rojected but I do believe we are in for another boom in the next 5 years.
As for the two politicians and the article in the Indy...I will only say...the Indy is in the business fro making a profit and the truth doesn't always make a profit. Maybe you should try talking to those two individuals personally to gather their actual standpoint.
Again, thinks for visitng and commenting.

Jennifer said...

Chris,
Hey good to hear from you. I am always open to finding less expensive ways of doing things, however, I am very much opposed to decreasing the quality (which will only cost us more in the long run, and I consider it a temporary fix) or delaying the building of this school. Our highschools are already busting at the seams. We had a little relief this year, actual enrollment was down drastically from what was rojected but I do believe we are in for another boom in the next 5 years.
As for the two politicians and the article in the Indy...I will only say...the Indy is in the business fro making a profit and the truth doesn't always make a profit. Maybe you should try talking to those two individuals personally to gather their actual standpoint.
Again, thinks for visitng and commenting.

Don in Hughesville said...

Chris, I have talked to those public officials privately. The Indy's account was fairly accurate. We can not allow the CCBOE to position the school construction issue in such a way that they potray anyone who is for cost containment as being against building quality schools. I hope more citizens are now paying attention to this issue and begin to get involved...and begin to ask more questions.

im1ru2 said...

re: "I am always open to finding less expensive ways of doing things; however, I am very much opposed to decreasing the quality (which will only cost us more in the long run, and I consider it a temporary fix) or delaying the building of this school."

It is called modular building; building what you can afford now with the hopes/intentions of adding on or enhancing later.

To suggest that we are giving something up now will only add costs later so go ahead and build it now when you can not afford it, is very irresponsible.

Newlyweds planning for a large family "sometime" in their marriage and family don't go out right away and buy that 6 bedroom house. They get what they can afford @ the time, to meet their current and short term future needs and then, as budgets (and other things) fall into play, they increase the size of their home to meet that need. This is not to say we should build small and try to make bigger later, but the methodology should be similar. Again, reduce the amenities and frills and concentrate on the appropriate size now and there will be huge savings (from the current 100 million dollar price tag).

As for not wanting to put more kids in portables, then why has our BOE and Commissioners NOT done something, anything, up to this point to drastically reduce our status as the King of All Portable Teaching District BEFORE we hit this moniker? So the future kids who would be housed in portables are somehow more worthy of 100 million dollar buildings, but the kids in the past (and current) are not?

Why not split the difference and build 50 million dollar buildings without tons of bells and whistles and get ALL kids out of portables? Past, present and future!


re: "We had a little relief this year, actual enrollment was down drastically from what was rojected but I do believe we are in for another boom in the next 5 years."

Charles County is experiencing drastic demographic shifts which have not peaked but may or may not continue with financial growth as previous growth has impacted the county (budget resources).

Real Estate taxes WILL NOT CONTINUE TO PROVIDE THE TAX BASE previously enjoyed by the government to support previous year's budget formulations. The only other way to afford the wish lists of fantastical school buildings is to increase personal taxes or cut other services (or both). Short a windfall of philanthropy by someone like Buffet or Gates, the money has to come from the citizens, and we are all broke - just in case anyone hasn't heard yet.

Jennifer, usually I can not find any fault in your reasoning and planning, but I think you are off-base on this one.

The building does not make the school (from the house does not make a family).

Jennifer said...

Don,
Then one of those punlic officials is tell fibs to one of us.

Jennifer said...

Wow, sorry for all those typos, something weird is going on with my keyboard.

Anonymous said...

Mrs. Abell, I would like to know why you did not question the cost of the high school and reducing its $100 million cost when the schematic design was presented to the school board. You just voted in favor and that was it.

Anonymous said...

...Now months later you all of a sudden you are "in favor of taking a second look." Could that have anything to do with the article in the Indy? Don't blame the paper, blame yourself for your vote for a 100 million high school.

Jennifer said...

Dear Anonymous,
For the answer to your first post...the new high school has been discussion for some time now. The original cost was somewhere around $130M. The board and staff reduced cost to $97M. I am not an engineer, architect, or construction manager, I must rely on the recommendations of the professionals when it comes to cost. So based on what I knew at the time (we need a new high school like yesterday, the county wanted a green school, and the cost had already been cut by almost $33M) I voted to accept the schematics. If I might point out, all the other board members voted to accept it as well, including the one mentioned in the recent Indy article.
As for your second comment, I really don't like your tone and can't really give much credit to your comments since I don't know who you are or your credentials. If you are in the construction field and would like to offer up some suggestions on where costs can be cut, please spill the beans. As I have offered before, I have the schematics, contact me and we can set-up a place/time for you to review them. For people to just say "cut-the-cost" without offering any valuable suggestions and without even looking at the designs or having any credentials is really worthless.
As for me "blaming the paper", about the outcome, that is furthest from the truth. You are twisting my words. I simply pointed out the the paper has been wrong on numerous occasions for crediting a specific member with a specific quote, missing or summarizing a quote, or "twisting" the information. Similar to what you just did. I questions whether Hodge and Bailey are truely on the same page as the article states.
In closing, I appreciate your conversation, questions, and suggestions however please be careful of accusations, especially when you are posting anonymously and won't put your name to them.

Jennifer said...

Im1ru2,
I may be "offbase" on this one and that's why I rely on the public's input. I don't try to portray that I know it all. I'm just a regular jo schmo like everyone else and learning as I go.
However, for all the critics, I would like to offer some insight...things aren't always as they appear and the public isn't always privy to all the information, especially when it comes to government. With that being said, do I think this is right, no.
My point is, there may be other factors as part of the equation. I would again, like to point out that the entire board voted to accept these schematics and is standing behind the construction of this school.

Jennifer said...

Anonymous,
I forgot to address one of your comments
"Now months later you all of a sudden you are "in favor of taking a second look."
Just like the Indy reporters, you put things in quotes that aren't quotes (hey do you work for them).
My exact statement was
"I am always open to finding less expensive ways of doing things, however, I am very much opposed to decreasing the quality (which will only cost us more in the long run, and I consider it a temporary fix) or delaying the building of this school.". Being open to finding a less expensive way of doing things is quite different than in favor of taking a second look.
Again, lots of criticism out there but very few (if any) actual do-able suggestions. No one, as of yet, has offered to take me up on even looking at the schematics. Put your time where your mouth is, do some research and offer up something. In fact, why don't some of these local developers bid on this at a much cheaper price tag,

Anonymous said...

"The original cost was somewhere around $130M. The board and staff reduced cost to $97M."

The cost was not cut, inflation was just taken out of the price tag... for now. And that was the commissioners who did that after the school board had already approved the design.

"If I might point out, all the other board members voted to accept it as well,"

... Why can't you take the lead?


"If you are in the construction field and would like to offer up some suggestions on where costs can be cut, please spill the beans"

...Why build the schools 20 percent over what the state will fund. Why put an expensive pool in the school? Why use the square feet that the state will fund 70 percent of construction by building a 4,000 square foot digital-dome, how many classrooms is 4,000 square feet? How many square feet is the pool area, and how many classrooms is that? How much does it cost to build a green school and was it ever debated if this should be green?

I don't have to be a construction guru to see red flags in the high school, with the major one being the $130 million flag.


"Again, lots of criticism out there but very few (if any) actual do-able suggestions. No one, as of yet, has offered to take me up on even looking at the schematics. Put your time where your mouth is, do some research and offer up something."

...ummm isn't that why we elected you (Yes, I am critical but I did vote for you) so that you could save us the work of having to dig through the designs. All I am asking is that questions are asked of those who seem to want to build a monument. ... I don't feel like they have been.

DO you agree with doing value engineering Jenifer?

Jennifer said...

Anonymous,
Let me start by saying, I apologize for being short with you earlier. Sometimes all this information makes me feel like my head is just going to spontaneously combust. Let me try to address your points...

"The cost was not cut, inflation was just taken out of the price tag... for now. And that was the commissioners who did that after the school board had already approved the design."

Do you know this as fact? I was told differently.

"... Why can't you take the lead?"

I can, and I have. On many instances I have stood as the lone voice. However, in order to lead, you have to be knowledgeable of the material and completely sure of yourself. Construction cost is not not my strong point. I'm sorry, I have tried, researched, listened and that is how I based my vote. I am always seraching for more knowledge and if you have some you would like to share, I am more than willing to meet with you and discuss, brainstorm, whatever it takes.

"Why put an expensive pool in the school?"
This was a county request by the commissioners, or at least that is what I was told.

" ...by building a 4,000 square foot digital-dome,"
My underdstandind is this is no longer part of the cost and is being privately funded.

"How much does it cost to build a green school and was it ever debated if this should be green?"


I don't have the exact % here in front of me (at work for March of Dimes), but if I recall it is a single digit % higher intitially to build a green school with savings annually on utilities, etc. And as I stated earlier, this was a request by the commissioners.

"...ummm isn't that why we elected you (Yes, I am critical but I did vote for you) so that you could save us the work of having to dig through the designs. All I am asking is that questions are asked of those who seem to want to build a monument. ... I don't feel like they have been.
"


Thank you for the vote and I'm sorry you feel as though I'm letting you down. Maybe you already know, maybe you don't, but most of the board members also have full-time jobs. We are not in central office working every day and our compensation is $4,000 annually. I'm not complaining by any means, but I do put my heart, soul and precious time into doing a copious amount of reading, research, meetings, and appearances. I could use any help I can get in the research department.

"DO you agree with doing value engineering Jenifer?"

hmmm...I feel like this is a trick question. Yes I agree in the concept, however I would not agree with delaying the building of this high school. If it could be accomplished efficiently and expediously while still moving forward, yes. If it could have been started a year ago, yes.

Chris Ripley said...

Jennifer,

I think this new high school warrants more discussion. If Harford County is building a new HS for $70 million, why is it costing $100 million here? (that went unreported in the Indy - you had to read it in the Post SM section) In my discussion with construction people the cost structure in the counties is the same. Why was Patuxent HS substantially less than NPHS? I'm sure the Science and Technology part contributed but that's done now - why another Science and Technology school? Could we build a HS and elem. school for the same price as a new HS and get more students out of trailers? But not have a planetarium to parade visitors through. Even if it's paid for by a congressional earmark.

As for sharing building plans between districts, I found it offensive Chuck Wineland was offended by the idea of sharing plans with other districts. This is not a competition (although one would think so based on the attention heaped on NPHS - all sizzle and no steak). We're here to serve the need of the students. If we can save some money or build more with the same money I find that to be more important than dignitary tours and meaningless awards (from a student perspective) to administrators.

I also find it offensive to blackmail citizens and commissioners with cries of lower test scores when discussions of fiscal responsibility are brought up. The property tax gravy train is about to come to an end and everyone needs to take a serious look at becoming more efficient while remaining effective.

im1ru2 said...

Jennifer,

Not a single thing I have commented on was aimed "directly" at you personally; but at the actions of the BOE and commissioners. The proverbial “you” is much like the use of “congressman” as it applies to both male and female (regardless of today’s PC congresswoman) and “you” refers to the BOE and Commissioners, unless specifically stated “Jennifer”.

I understand you are not the expert in all fields and I for one don't expect you to be. I am not totally sure how that perception came across from (at least) my post in this blog, but apparently that is the case.

So, for clarification on the cost for this new high school:

It is a different time in our budget life and we (the county, state and tax payers) have much different fiscal capabilities than previously. Therefore, it is my contention - and what I thought I was suggesting earlier - that the BOE and Commissioners re-think this whole high school building project. Further, I am on record as suggesting that our costs for building things are over the top. A million dollar dome for instance, is not what I consider fiscal responsibility. While we still have kids in trailers, schools without technology and almost every single school in the county having fundraisers on top of fundraisers (which tells me we don’t have everything fully funded) for uniforms, more in-classroom products and older schools lacking in maintenance, we have no right to be including amenities’ beyond the basics. Fix all the other budget holes and then we can talk about extras, if the economy is up to the task.

Start with ONLY the basics; get the costs for that. If feasible, move on (up) to the first set of options (providing the building has been broken down by staff - as was even suggested at the "Beg-a-thon" - into segments; basic building meeting minimum requirements and then all the "extras"), and on and on. Figure out which level can be funded while achieving all the other county costs and that is your project. Nothing more, nothing less. I know that sounds simplistic and I am not disrespecting all that goes into this type of project, but it actually is that simple. Only build what you can afford.

And for the record, it may appear that you are getting blasted on this one but I see it from another view (not as the person on the hot seat so to speak) and see it as a lot of interest now from your constituents due to the economy (taxes mostly) and people being more tuned in to what their government is doing.

And, you have always been transparent - a good thing, Jennifer, meant as a compliment - and open to your public. So of course you will hear (read) everyone's views on things. Especially when things are not going well.

A lot more than can be said of the other BOE members and Commissioners. They might think getting 3 minutes in during a meeting is satisfactory, but from experience, they are way, way off on that regard. The Board and Commissioners (at least the ones without allowing for discussion, open discussion) have a very "screw you" type persona.

Finally, your remarks about what the government is doing we might not always be privy to is very disturbing. (I have paraphrased here; your words are not exactly what I just wrote, but my interpretation). Outside of some personnel issues, we should be privy to what our government is doing (not talking at the federal level here, more consideration about security there).

I have said it before and will again here; you work very hard for us and I (at least) appreciate that. You have been and are a trusted representative for Charles County on our BOE. And, your blog is very valuable for us to communicate and you really, really should be (and I believe you have) applauded for ALL that commitment.

Jennifer said...

Chris,
Did some research and received some information on the Harford School (and many others in the area). Your question was why is ours costing $100M and Harford is building one for only $70M. Here are the comparisons of the New Edgewood High School to the proposed Charles County High School. CHarles County numbers are in ( ).
Capacity 1,741 students (1,600)
Square Foot 268,189 (285,000)
Construction Cost $7MK ($84M)
Project Cost $85M ($97.6M)

Facts & Features on Edgewood - On an existing site with a middle and elementary school and current existing high school. No pool. Existing fields. No stadium. No major site prep.

Facts % Features on Charles County - built for core capacity 1,920, pool, stadium, fields, black box theater, digital classroom, green building

Jennifer said...

I;ve got a list of quite a few other schools in the area we could compare to if you want any more done, throw me a name.