Early Learning Center costs soar

or the Early Learning Center reconstruction was $1,073,775--to be taken out of the $35 million bond passed by voters in May. By April, the cost had risen to $1,683,073. In the first week of October, it was $1,814,838. 

"I wanted direction from the board," South Lane Superintendent Krista Parent told the school board on Monday. The school district campaigned for the bond to improve facilities, technology and security, citing upgrades to the Warren Daugherty Aquatic Center, a new Harrison Elementary School and improvements to early learning. 

"I want direction on how to proceed," Parent said, noting she was uncomfortable making the decision without imput from the school board. 

The Early Learning Center is currently housed in the shadows of the new Harrison Elementary School on Taylor Ave. and used to sit adjacent to Al Kennedy High School before Kennedy moved to Delight Valley at the start of the current school year. 

Plans for the center include an additional 5,000 square feet and two additional spaces that will serve as a covered play area until the school district can afford to turn them into classrooms. 

Head Start, a program removed from South Lane School District, will be utilizing the Early Learning Center. 

"They get their funding from the federal level," Parent explained. "I'm confident they'll contribute something. Maybe equipping these classrooms or finishing one of the two empty spaces for a classroom," she said. 

Mike Goreman of BLRB Architects came before the board Monday night to explain the jump in cost from 2015 to October of this year. 

"Right now, in this bidding climate we're looking at a one percent escalation cost per month," he said. Various construction projects across the state of Oregon have tied up contractors and raised costs in a classic supply and demand scenario. 

Currently, the Early Learning Center is permitted and Goreman said part of the costs come from materials that are eing matched to the new Harrison Elementary school. 

The new $1.8 million price tag comes after Harrison's construction has risen from $19 million to $23 million. 

"This $1.8 million, there isn't anywhere else to go with this number," Parent said. "It could go up if we wait longer." 

To get to the $1.8 million from the original bond estimate of just over $1 million, Parent suggested to the board using $300,000 in savings from technology, $200,000 in Harrison reuse, $100,000 in deferred maintenance and money from two different funds--$75,000 from Fund 430 (a construction tax fund) and $66,063 from Fund 450 (a capitol improvements fund). 

"We use that for summer maintenance and we have a little over $400,000 in that fund," Parent said. "Most of that is going to be used but we can obviously take $66,000." 

That money, in additional to the original bond estimate would bring the district to the $1.8 million it would need to fund the Early Learning Center. 

The cost had board member Taylor Wilhour questioning the certainty of the estimated price, asking if it could still increase if the board were to approve the $1.8 million. 

According to Goreman and district maintenence manager Matt Allen, the were confident in the estimate of $1.8 million. 

"We did everything under the sun to squeeze every dollar out of it," Goreman told the board in terms of stretching the district's dollar. 

The board approved the $1.8 million. 

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