School board considers options in privatizing building projects Members must decide how much control they want to keep

December 12, 1996|By Andrea F. Siegel | Andrea F. Siegel,SUN STAFF

Edgy Anne Arundel County school board members said last night that while they want to continue looking into hiring a sole contractor to take over school construction, they are not sure how much control they are willing to give up.

The board told schools Superintendent Carol S. Parham that it wants more information, but that it will have to wait until contractors present their proposals next spring.

Parham has proposed privatizing school construction as a way of dealing with the school system's troubled construction department.

Next month, the board will vote on whether to pursue the policy change.

Last night, the board heard how privatization would work.

Parham has told the board that privatization would add roughly $2.2 million to construction costs over five years but that she expects it would save money because errors would be caught early.

In 1994 and 1995, problems from design to construction cost county schools more than $7 million.

"I have a problem with how much [privatization is] going to cost," said board member Michael J. McNelly.

"The more control you give up, the greater the risk," said board President Joseph H. Foster. "What does giving up control mean? What can it buy you?"

What it can buy, said board member Michael Pace, is expertise on construction and more time for board members to devote to instructional issues.

"The board is interested in getting out of the construction business," he said.

Pace and board member Thomas Florestano said that they are ready to become the client.

Florestano said that he wants to see a prototype and have little to do with the nuts and bolts of construction.

But the issue of how much control to retain is of great concern, members said.

"How do you communicate your vision without micromanaging?" asked board member Carlesa Finney.

If the board decides next month to continue exploring privatization, a request for proposals will go out to contractors.

Parham would like to have a program in place by July 1, the start of the new fiscal year.

Pub Date: 12/12/96

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