Harford schools want time to address funding shortfall

Over $9 million lacking for modernization project

March 16, 2004|By Lane Harvey Brown | Lane Harvey Brown,SUN STAFF

Harford County school officials asked the Board of Education last night to delay awarding a contract for North Harford High's modernization until next week to allow further talks with the county on closing a funding gap of more than $9 million.

The schools don't have the money to award the bid for the three-year, $44 million high school renovation because they received only $1.5 million of a $6.5 million state construction funding request - and bids for the work came in more than $4 million above estimates.

"This is all still very fuzzy," said Superintendent Jacqueline C. Haas, adding that the schools would need the county's commitment that they can make up the shortfall this year.

"That would be the only way we could move forward," Haas said.

Expanding North Harford High's capacity is key to relieving crowding in Bel Air-area schools, officials say.

Earlier yesterday, John J. O'Neill Jr., county administration director, said the engineering group working on the proposed Patterson Mill Middle-High School is reviewing the North Harford project.

"We're looking for them to reduce the amount of money they need so the county can move forward and decide what it wants to do," O'Neill said.

The county and schools also are considering whether to revamp the work schedule into a two-year timeframe.

A shorter project would save money, but the job would have to be rebid - at a time when the cost of construction materials is rising, said Joseph Licata, assistant schools superintendent for operations.

"We're on the edge, there's no question about it," Licata said.

Board member Thomas L. Fidler Jr., a commercial real estate executive, said the schools need to revisit the process used for construction projects because the system permits too many delays.

"Time is money," Fidler said. "If there was ever a good example, here it is today."

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