$3.9 million cost overrun seen at River Hill High

August 26, 1994|By Lan Nguyen | Lan Nguyen,Sun Staff Writer

The new River Hill High School in Clarksville came in $3.9 million over budget and money will have to be taken from other accounts to make up the difference, school board members were told yesterday.

The overrun -- the first in years for the Howard County school system -- is attributed to construction delays and property acquisition that added $1.9 million in costs to the $30 million project. The state's refusal to pay $2 million of the $8.7 million it had pledged for the project also was blamed.

"Obviously, I'm very disappointed," said school board chairman Dana Hanna. "It's going to be the first time that I know of in my six years on the board we've had one."

River Hill, the county's most technologically advanced high school, opens Monday and will serve the Wilde Lake High School population until the rebuilt Wilde Lake opens in 1996.

School Superintendent Michael E. Hickey said weather-induced construction delays may have caused contractors to work overtime in order to finish their work before school opens.

In addition, the plumbing contractor, Cockeysville-based Collins-Snoops & Associates Inc. was slow in its work for reasons that school officials would not detail. The firm eventually agreed to leave the project, adding an unspecified amount to the cost overrun, school officials said.

One of the company's owners, Lawrence A. Snoops, is the son of Hilda Mae Snoops, a longtime friend of Gov. William Donald Schaefer.

Also adding to the overrun was the state officials' refusal to pay $2 million for equipment and square footage that school officials had expected the state to fund. Dr. Hickey said he would meet with state Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick to appeal that decision.

To make up for the overrun, the school system will ask the county government to take $2 million from a school construction and site acquisition fund, money which is reserved to buy land for new schools.

An additional $1.4 million would come from funds left over from construction of Rockburn and Manor Woods elementary schools and Burleigh Manor Middle School, and $500,000 would be trimmed from the budget for the northeastern middle school being built in Elkridge.

"This is not an unusual occurrence in the transfer in the accounts," Associate Superintendent Sydney Cousin said. "Usually we have contingencies in the account, and that's why they're there."

But one top county official said the school system should look more closely at its contracting procedures.

"Obviously, I'm concerned about it," County Council Chairman C. Vernon Gray said. "We have run into a problem that requires us to up the ante a couple of million dollars."

Referring to Collins-Snoops, he suggested the school system do background and reference checks of companies before awarding a contract.

But Dr. Cousin said that Collins-Snoops had done satisfactory work for the school system in the past and was bonded and licensed with the state.

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