“They’ve wasted taxpayers’ money,” said Danny Jones, an architect who previously worked with BRPH Architects-Engineers Inc. of Vinings, the firm that designed the ninth-grade center. “They are double-dipping to pay the architect again to redesign.”
On Thursday night, the board voted first to separate the ninth-grade project from other maintenance and renovation work to be done at the school, then voted to proceed with only the maintenance and renovations. Both votes were 4-3, with Chairman Scott Sweeney, Lynnda Eagle and David Banks opposing.
Jones said separating the work, as the board did, would be close to impossible. Two parts of the renovation are for larger rooms, a choral room and a cafeteria, that were to be housed inside the ninth-grade center.
“You have to redesign the whole facility … you will have to start from square one,” Jones said. “Those design pieces (the choral room and cafeteria), if they were put back in the original building, the possibility of that hasn’t ever been done.”
In February 2011, the board authorized spending up to $686,700 with the BRPH firm for designing the entire project — renovations and ninth-grade center. The district has actually paid $460,000 for the design work, Deputy Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said.
The vote on the architectural work was also 4-3, but with board members Alison Bartlett, Kathleen Angelucci and Tim Stultz opposing.
Heather Ryan, a Harrison parent who spoke in favor of the ninth-grade center during the public comment portion of Thursday’s meeting, is furious with the board’s vote. If the Cobb delegation’s reapportionment map moves Alison Bartlett into Harrison’s area, Ryan plans to actively campaign against Bartlett’s re-election later this year, she said.
“She’s not taking care of our constituents, our area,” she said. “They have to build (the ninth-grade center). It’s in the SPLOST III notebook … there’s no place inside the school to make the other renovations.”
The cafeteria can’t be expanded in its current location because it is only 15 feet from the curb, she said. Also, if the choral-room renovations are done now and the ninth-grade center later, there would likely be so little ground left on campus that the ninth-grade center would have to built on top of the choral room.
“They weren’t taking those kinds of things into consideration,” Ryan said. “Most of them haven’t been out there to look at the school, I guarantee.”
Ragsdale said members of the district’s SPLOST staff tried to warn the board about how much it would cost to go back to the drawing board.
Larry Wall, the SPLOST construction director, told the board that the district would not be able to bid the ninth-grade center again for at least a year, and that doing so could end up costing more, though he did not say how much.
Ryan said she didn’t think the SPLOST staff members were vocal enough about the additional costs.
“I would have loved to have gotten back up there to bring up the concerns with dividing all these things up,” she said.
Sweeney, the board’s chairman, said that he too is concerned about the “substantial fees” the vote may cost the district, but that board members had ample time to consider the proposal.