Schools plan use of refund from insurer Firm gives $237,055

board wants money for repairs, building

Proposal pending approval

Some funds would go to West Middle, Elmer Wolfe project

November 18, 1996|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,SUN STAFF

A relatively smooth couple of years has paid off for Carroll County Public Schools: a larger-than-usual refund of $237,055 from its workers' compensation insurance carrier.

The school board approved using the money to cover the cost of some emergency repairs and to replace a worn-out elevator at West Middle School in Westminster. The County Commissioners will have the final say on how the insurance refund is spent.

Elmer Wolfe Elementary School could be the primary beneficiary. The school is to be rebuilt beginning this year, but a tight budget has meant slashing some features that other recently built schools have. Those features put the project about $700,000 over budget.

The insurance refund is the result of a complex series of calculations, based on claims made over the previous three years, said Walter Brilhart, director of finance for the schools. The claims were less serious and expensive than projected for a school system this size, he said.

Although refunds are not unusual, this is the highest one Brilhart can remember for at least five years.

"There's no way of projecting this," Brilhart said.

Schools strive for a safe work environment, he said, and have a safety committee in place consisting of school administrators and representatives from its insurer, Great American Insurance Co. But a lot is just luck.

"You could have a worker slip and fall and hurt a leg, or you could have a worker slip and fall and lose a leg," Brilhart said.

The insurance refund would funnel $105,888 toward Elmer Wolfe, and school leaders will decide whether to use that money for built-in shelving and cabinets, or glazed tile for the lower half of hallway walls. Other recently built Carroll schools have both the casework and the glazed tiles. The tiles are said to reduce fingerprints and smudge marks that mar painted walls, and reduce the need for repainting.

The structural wall tiles can't be added once the building is constructed. Other items, such as terrazzo tile floors, an entrance canopy, landscaping and a tractor storage shed, can be added in future years if more money is available, said Vernon Smith, director of school support services.

In the 1997-1998 capital improvement budget request to the county, the Carroll Board of Education asked that the additional items for Elmer Wolfe be one of its top priorities.

Brilhart said it is better if the school system can provide as much as possible from its own budget.

"Particularly with the Elmer Wolfe building, it's either this or go back to the commissioners and ask for more money," Brilhart said. "All of these are extremely necessary items."

The school board approved using the money Wednesday for Elmer Wolfe, and to reimburse the maintenance budget $103,198 -- the cost of emergency repairs to the air-conditioning systems at Westminster High School and Hampstead Elementary School. Another $20,000 would be used to replace the elevator at West Middle and $7,969 would go toward buying a maintenance vehicle. The plan will go before the commissioners for final approval.

The original Elmer Wolfe building in Union Bridge was torn down to make room for a new school. Students this year are occupying the old New Windsor Middle School building.

In March, bids for the new school came in about $1 million over budget, because of some innovative but expensive items the architects had built into the design, said Lester Surber, supervisor of facilities. The architects redesigned the school -- at no extra cost -- and it was put out for bid again, he said.

Wednesday, the school board awarded the general contract to Waynesboro Construction Co. of Waynesboro, Pa., for $6.44 million, not counting the additional items that can be added with the insurance refund.

Pub Date: 11/18/96

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