Work Begins on 'Much Needed Project'

Work Begins on 'Much Needed Project'

Lanier renewal project breaks ground with ceremonial celebration.

When Mayor Robert Lederer attended Lanier Middle School almost 40 years ago, he remembers thinking the building needed work, even back then.

Built in 1960, Lanier was only a few years old, but Lederer said it seemed much older. That is why he said the City Council is excited to finally move forward with the construction process of the last of four schools budgeted in the city’s school renewal project.

“It’s way overdue,” said Lederer. “It’s a much needed project and I’m excited we’re getting started.”

Construction has already begun at Lanier, 3710 Bevan Drive, but some students will still attend classes in outdoor trailers for another year. The parking lot is scheduled to be completed by Sept. 6, when the 2006-07 school year begins. City Council, county and city School Board members and representatives from Dustin Construction, Inc., and Architecture Inc. came together Tuesday, May 23, for a groundbreaking celebration.

“I’m really pleased we are finally under way and that everyone is here,” said Janice Miller, Chairman of the City School Board. “It’s nice to have a ceremonial beginning.”

THE ACTUAL BEGINNING was about five years ago, according to City Manager Robert Sisson. City Council and staff drafted a plan to renovate Fairfax High School, Lanier Middle School, Daniels Run Elementary and Providence Elementary. Lanier is the last to go, and the project is scheduled to wrap up in March 2008.

“We’re relieved and excited to be moving forward,” said Miller. “The added space will provide a really sound atmosphere and environment for our children."

The bond for the project was passed in 2004, but the School Board waited a year to move forward because bids were so high. They remained high the following year, but Miller said with careful financial management, the project will still be over budget, but will be less than the $11 million over budget previously predicted.

“I think there’s a very good chance we won’t need that money because of contingencies in the budget,” said Lederer. “Bids came in $11 million over budget, but we’ve not indebted the city. You have to approve it before you can get started.”

Because of the contingencies, Lederer said, the project could even be completed for about $10 million less than originally thought.

“We’re very hopeful,” said Lederer. “We authorized the contract but have not financed the shortfall. If we stay within the contracts and don’t have overruns, it could be as low as $1 million.”

“I think with careful management of out financial resources, we hope to have more money available from contingencies,” said Miller.

Another financial option includes unforeseen possibilities in the Fairfax High School project. Cross said by the time the Lanier project would even need to start tapping into some of the money in the over budgeted range, other options might become available.

“Council will make money available if necessary,” said Cross. “We’ll either bond the project or there could be funds left over from the Fairfax High School project.”

Regardless of the future of the financial impact of the project, the city is one step closer to completing the 70,000 square foot additions and renovations at Lanier, said Miller.

“This begins the end of the renewal process of the four schools,” said Miller. “We are thrilled to be breaking ground on this project.”