The Covington Independent Schools Board of Education voted to accept a bid to repair the district’s central school bus garage and parts of the gym at Glenn O. Swing Elementary at a meeting on May 11.
The garage, located on Eugenia Avenue in Latonia, is over one-hundred years old. The building has multiple structural problems, including rotten roof support beams, roof holes and metalwork bent from age and stress.
The repairs to Glenn O. Swing’s gym would include the additions of a vapor barrier beneath the floor and new bleachers, according to documents from the district.
The lack of applicants and the project cost were points of contention within the board.
Kareem Simpson, the only board member to vote against accepting the bid from construction contractor Schrudde & Zimmerman Construction, expressed a desire to shore up how the district sought vendors for construction projects like these.
Simpson was especially perturbed by the contractor’s bid amount, which came back “60% higher than what was estimated,” he said.
Ken Kippenbrock, the district’s director of human resources and operations, who was responsible for soliciting and managing the bids, said that the district estimated the combined cost of both the garage repairs and the additions to Glenn O. Swing to be about $1.4 million in a phone conversation after the meeting. Documents he presented to the board show the bid returned from Schrudde & Zimmerman to be about $2.1 million.
“That’s a concern to me,” Simpson said, “and I feel that there wasn’t enough information given why this couldn’t be put out for rebid.”
“I think there needs to be another look at this particular project and the bid process,” Simpson added, “to make sure that we get additional bids to kind of stave off some of those fears that we have a higher bid, making sure that we are choosing the right contractor for our needs.”
On the phone, Kippenbrock attributed the lack of bidders and the high bid figure to rising inflationary costs. He added that compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act and other required accessibility measures also contributed to the costs. Finally, he said that low numbers of bidders on publicly-funded projects like these were common.
Simpson said he understood the urgency behind this particular project and commended the district staff for being helpful in explaining the district’s budget plans. Still, he said he couldn’t ignore his worries about cost and process.
Tom Haggard, the board of education president, acknowledged Simpson’s worries, saying he had had multiple conversations with Superintendent Alvin Garrison and district staff about “scope creep.”
Haggard emphasized the importance of “keeping a tight leash on spending when it comes to facilities. We are all in agreement that we want the absolute best facilities, but we have to have the best facilities that we can afford, to be very mindful stewards of the taxpayers’ dollars.”
Kippenbrock stated that work on the projects would begin shortly after school adjourned for summer vacation and, hopefully, would be completed before the beginning of the next school year.
The next Covington Board of Education meeting will be a special meeting at Holmes High School on May 22 at 5:30 p.m.