AC-WH CC board hears remodeling project update

AC-WH CC board hears remodeling project update

The Ashland County-West Holmes Career Center Board of Education has authorized treasurer Julie Smith to complete the paperwork to establish a capital projects fund to hold excess funds such as property-tax revenue from the Rover Pipeline or a year-end budget surplus that can be used for a variety of capital projects. Smith outlined the process at the board’s regular meeting on Thursday, April 21 for board members who could not attend the March meeting.

Smith told the board state law allows funds to be set aside in a capital project fund for up to 10 years before it must be spent or put back into the accounts they came from. The money can be used for things like classroom facilities expenses, technical equipment for school programs, new projects, project cost overruns or even to pay down project debt.

“On our bonds (for the planned remodeling/renovation), we have an eight-year call, which means in eight years we will be able to pay down debt and potentially reduce our interest rate, depending on where we are,” Smith said. “I know we all like to say this project is going to be on budget — and that is our goal to make sure that happens — but we also know where we are as far as market.”

Smith told the board that officials learned at a recent construction manager at risk meeting that the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission has adjusted the 2021 project cost sets to the tune of a 17.2% increase. She also said the career center project is receiving state funding based on cost sets from 2020 and that money set aside in a capital projects fund could help offset some of any increase that might happen.

Although any money from the Rover Pipeline challenge of its tax rates could be as much as three or four years down the road, Smith said the career center could start putting money aside now from the general fund. She said revenues have exceeded expenses nearly every year over the past 10 years and said she will wait until the end of the fiscal year in June to make a recommendation for transfer to the new account.

Board member Rick Ewing was concerned employees could accuse the board of hiding funds by moving them around, as was done during contract negotiations in Ashland. Smith said the resolution creating the fund and the designation of the funds will be transparent.

Voters in Ashland and Holmes counties approved a 1.1 mill permanent improvement levy in November to pay for a $43 million project to remodel the current career center building and purchase/remodel the Ashland County Service Center building next door for adult education programs and administrative offices.

During committee reports, Smith told the board that the Ohio Facilities Construction Commission, which has committed $10.9 million in state funding toward the project, has picked Hammond Construction as the construction manager at risk and approved a contract for preconstruction services. She said a guaranteed contract price will be set once design documents are “somewhat finalized,” which will be down the road.

The first meeting of project core participants was April 27, which included the first negotiations on fees with the architectural firm SHP. The next step will be to hold partnering sessions over the next month to discuss project goals and responsibilities.

In other business:

—The board approved a recommendation by Superintendent Rod Cheyney to create a new heating, ventilation and air-conditioning program and a related teaching position that is being planned to start in the 2022-23 school year. Cheyney said the program is being planned to be included in the remodeling/renovation program and will result in students having the same certifications as the current adult program.

—The board also approved a $21,298 invoice from the law firm of Brickler and Eckler LLC for attorney fees and legal services. The board tabled action in March in order to determine if all the listed expenses are justified and reasonable after Smith said the total was significantly over the “not to exceed” figure allowable under the Ohio Revised Code.

Smith said she talked with the firm about hours and charges and found the firm accurately billed for the time they did work for the school and that some fees were different because a lower paid assistant did some of the work. “All in all the invoice is accurate,” she said.

Ewing suggested that, in the future, the board should look at hiring a more cost-effective lawyer for what he described as “mundane stuff.”

—The resignation of assistant principal Doug Haas from his two-year limited contract was accepted, effective July 31.

—Ashleigh Robinson was hired as assistant to the treasurer on a classified one-year limited contract for the 2021-22 contract year, prorated to April 19.

—Upcoming events include the auto body program’s Car Cruise on May 7, the West Holmes construction trades modular home auction on May 12, and the senior farewell and the adult education graduation on May 20.

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