Council, School Board Commiserate

Council, School Board Commiserate

Both have construction proposals over budget.

The Fairfax City Council and Fairfax School Board met in a joint closed session to discuss renovations to city properties on Feb. 23.

The City Council has planned for the construction of a new police station and a renovation and expansion of City Hall. The School Board has planned for renovations to both Fairfax High School and Lanier Middle School.

City voters approved the sale of two separate bond issues, however the construction bids for each of the projects came in at approximately 20 percent higher then the bond amounts.

After the closed session ended, the bodies met openly for a time. Both groups are meeting with their respective contractors to discuss ways they might lower the bids or scale back the contracts.

"We have already gone through cuts," said Mayor Robert Lederer in the open session.

City of Fairfax school superintendent George Stepp said that the School Board is also negotiating with the low bidder and discussing ways they might scale back. The school board, Stepp said, wants to maintain the academic amenities and remain within the bond funds.

Lederer asked if there might have been a cost savings if the projects had been bundled together.

While there may have been some savings, said Jay Moore, of Moseley Architects, who has been working with the City Council, "I don't think it would have saved anywhere near the 20 percent."

Councilmember R. Scott Silverthorne again proposed cutting the City Hall project entirely. This would allow completion of the police station, but would not help the School Board, since bond funds cannot be transferred.

Councilmember Jeffrey Greenfield disagreed. "We don't have the space in this building now," Greenfield said. "I think we'll regret it if we pull out now."

City Manager Robert Sisson had presented the council with a package of options that might allow the council projects — renovations to the police station and city hall — to go forward.

The funds from the bonds cannot be shifted from one project to the other. If the additional funds are to be made up though taxes, that would need to be decided during the city's budget deliberations. Since the source of funding for both projects will be the same — city taxpayers — the council decided to hold off on making a decision until the last possible day in order to gather as much information as it can first. When the item to award the contract came up during the council's regular business meeting, it was deferred until March 22.