Cooperation and oversight

Carroll County: School board, commissioners must work together to improve construction process.

May 26, 2000

THE SCHOOL board and the county commissioners must not let pride and legalisms get in the way of a joint effort to improve school construction project oversight.

Admittedly, discussions of a working agreement on duties and powers of a construction liaison hired by the county have to nail down the details. That's necessary to avoid harmful misunderstandings and confrontations.

But the public doesn't deserve more of the unwarranted secrecy and arrogance that have led to mistakes and added costs on recent school projects. It deserves a prompt disclosure of problems, and potential problems, involved in these expensive undertakings.

The county consultant-monitor should have access to the bid review information the school board uses to select contractors. That information should be provided to the commissioners, who fund these projects. That's important to restore the public confidence squandered by this school board by recent poor decisions.

At the same time, the commissioners have to respect the legal authority of the school board to award construction contracts. Undue interference could well taint the bid process and undermine the county's ability to obtain essential state funding for these needed buildings.

The personalities of the school board construction manager and the county's construction liaison will help determine the level of cooperation in this sensitive process. But it is incumbent on their respective employers to set the tone and the need for a healthy and productive relationship.

No, the monitor shouldn't be pestering the manager and contractors with incessant questions on the job. Yes, he should be kept informed and allowed access to facilities to get that information.

Whether he's paid out of the school project budget or the county staff budget is the kind of petty argument that helps to dash hopes for cooperation and independent oversight that the public is demanding.

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