Dayton Public Schools’ plan to move its headquarters 50 yards across Ludlow Street this summer could cost more than $3 million, and the school board tabled a vote Tuesday night on the primary construction contract tied to the move.
The board generally doesn’t vote on anything at review sessions like Tuesday’s meeting, but a $2.5 million purchase requisition was included on this agenda, calling for Bilbrey Construction to renovate the planned new headquarters at 124-136 Ludlow St.
School board member John McManus opposed the proposal on several fronts — that board members had not received an explanation of the costs, that a review session without public comment was not the best venue to vote on the issue, and that there had been recent discussion of selling the buildings, but no update on where that stood.
“I think it would be disrespecting our constituents to vote on this tonight,” McManus said. “We don’t even know, unless (others) were told more than I, what’s even included in these contracted services for $2.5 million. I don’t know, and I don’t think any of our constituents know.”
McManus criticized Superintendent Elizabeth Lolli, Treasurer Hiwot Abraha and other board members for not answering his email request for more information about the $2.5 million expense days earlier. After his sometimes heated comments, other board members asked if the vote could be postponed, with Jocelyn Rhynard eventually making a motion to do so, and the board voting 6-0 to table the matter.
The district has said for the past 15 months that it will move its headquarters because the current site – the former Reynolds and Reynolds complex at 115 S. Ludlow St. — is too large for existing staff and too expensive to maintain.
Associate Superintendent Shelia Burton had said more than a year ago that the 115 Ludlow building had $1.1 million in deferred maintenance to take care of. Asked why DPS was then planning to spend more than $3 million to move, Burton said the total structural fixes at 115 Ludlow would cost “way more” than $1.1 million, and more even than the $3 million to move.
Burton said the old building would need major HVAC and elevator work among other fixes. She added the complex is still on well water and it would be “very, very expensive” to make a needed switch to connect it to the city water system.
Burton said Bilbrey’s $2.5 million in work at the new site would include major heating and air-conditioning fixes that are needed. She said the cost also includes requests from the school board to carve out space for offices and to re-create a large space like the community room where the school board currently meets.
The board had already approved a few piecemeal contracts tied to the 124-136 Ludlow St. buildings — $217,062 for computer hardware and wiring, $194,000 for architectural and design services, $86,500 for exterior painting, But there had been little public comment about the total cost of the project, which would be more than $3 million even before elevator work that DPS officials said was also needed.
DPS Executive Director of Operations Rick Rayford told the school board that an aggressive timeline of getting most central office employees moved this summer, and the job totally finished by the end of September, was the reason the vote was scheduled Tuesday, rather than at the district’s next business meeting April 30.
Rayford added that Bilbrey Construction was ready to start work soon, but if the board delayed its vote until the end of the month, it was possible that the company would move other jobs ahead of the DPS project, possibly costing more than just those three weeks.
Asked whether either Ludlow building was up for sale as McManus had suggested, board member Mohamed Al-Hamdani said the district had done some research on a possible sale, but added there is no offer on the table regarding either building.
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