New Ironton schools over budget

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 17, 2008

An Ohio contractors organization is blaming a $4 million overrun for Ironton’s new local schools on the union-only labor agreement, but a state official said the PLA may not necessarily be to blame.

In a letter to The Ironton Tribune, Mary Tebeau, president of the Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., Central Ohio Chapter, took issue with the PLAs approved by the Ironton City Schools and the South Point Local School District. She said such agreements put the school construction projects out of reach of all but union shop construction outfits, therefore driving out competition while driving up costs.

“According to records with the Ohio School Facilities Commission (OSFC), the governing body that authorizes school funding, the Ironton High School was an astonishing 25 percent over budget,” Tebeau said in her letter. “The elementary school was 18.9 percent above budget and only one construction company bid on the general trades package.”

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She said Ironton officials recently had to ask the state for an additional $3.9 million to pay for its new buildings.

She took South Point to task for throwing out two rounds of bids for its new elementary schools before enacting a PLA that made third-round bids tens of thousands of dollars higher than previous bids.

Tebeau said normally, such projects have many bidders. But the PLAs have prevented open shops from bidding.

“What we seek is a level playing field,” she said. “Unfortunately for some reason, the two schools have eliminated a majority of construction workers since a majority are open shop.”

But Rick Savor, spokesman for the OSFC, said that is not true. He said central and southeastern Ohio traditionally have not had as many bidders for school projects as do similar projects in other parts of the state.

Ironton Superintendent Dean Nance agreed. He said the agreement stipulated that skilled workers would build Ironton’s new schools and that contractors associated with the districts project would complete federal and state approved apprenticeship programs.

Nance said the PLA insured all contractors be Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) compliant and all employees be drug free.

“The PLA did not discriminate against any construction worker.

There is currently a non-union company working on our schools right now.

They have to use employees who meet the aforementioned high quality standards,” Nance said.

As for the increased cost of building those new schools, Savor said, “It’s not typical but its also not unheard of for districts to come in over budget estimates and this can do with any number of factors.”

He said both Wheelersburg and Gallipolis school districts are also facing costs increases for their projects and those districts do not have PLAs.

He said one problem for Ironton is that officials here are using a two-year-old budget

plan to pay for present day construction costs.

“There is inflation in critical areas,” Savor said.

Nance echoed this sentiment.

“The Ohio School Facility Commission recently added nearly $4 million more to the Ironton project due to inflationary cost.

This additional money will not cost the citizens of Ironton any additional taxes,” he said.

South Point Superintendent Ken Cook was contacted for comment. He did not return telephone calls.