2018 Tops News Story #2: Building begins for Berryville schools
By Kelby Newcomb
The Berryville School District’s multimillion-dollar construction project, funded by a voter-approved tax increase, kicked into high gear in 2018.
Construction on a new football stadium, the centerpiece of a sports complex that also will include new baseball and softball fields, was completed in time for the Berryville Bobcats’ first home game of the 2018 season on Sept. 7, and ground was broken for a new high school on Nov. 26.
The new high school will cover 98,000 square foot on the site of the old football field. The construction plan also includes new 22,000-square-foot cafeterias for both the middle and high schools and new 22,000-square-foot media centers for both the middle and high schools.
Superintendent Owen Powell said at the high school groundbreaking that this is an exciting and historic time for Berryville’s students, faculty and community.
“We are here to celebrate a new beginning for our students,” Powell said. “In a little more than a year, these students will be walking the hallways of their new high school right here where we stand. While we are
excited about this new addition to the school district, we will respect and renew the old. The old high school has served our community for 70 years. It will remain on campus and become the central administration building.”
Powell thanked the Berryville community for recognizing its students’ need for a better school building. Voters adopted the 4.45-mill property tax increase in the September 2017 school election, providing the money for the construction project.
“I would like to thank the community of Berryville for investing in furthering education through this project,” he said. “I would like to thank the Berryville School Board, Lewis Architects and Nabholz Construction, who have all worked hard to make our vision a reality. I’m honored to be here and be a part of this progress by moving Berryville schools forward. This is a great moment in Berryville history, and it’s a great day to be a Bobcat.”
The district did not reach this point without encountering some hurdles along the way.
The Berryville School Board met in a special session on Wednesday, Oct. 3, with Nabholz Construction, the construction manager, and Lewis Architects Engineers, the architect, because the building project was a little more than $1 million over budget.
According to the program budget summary senior project manager Jeff Gattis presented at that meeting, construction for the project will cost $25,689,644 in total with the athletic complex costing $6,300,000, the high school costing an estimated $16,102,78, the middle school cafeteria costing an estimated $3,086,846 and the demolition of existing buildings costing an estimated $200,000.
Additionally, the project will cost about $1,541,378.64 in architectural and engineering fees, $10,000 for geotechnical engineering, $1,167,850 for furniture, fixtures and equipment and $100,000 for administrative office renovations.
In total, the summary states, the project will cost about $28,508,873 at this point, exceeding the district’s budget of $27,350,000 by $1,158,873.
Steve Elliott, president of of Lewis Architects Engineers, said the rising cost of materials is one of the reasons bid prices were higher than expected.
“Besides the cost of materials going up, the market is booming,” Elliott said. “Right now, you still have bidders. When you have five electricians bidding, that’s what makes you a good price. When you get one or two bidding, your price will go up. My last four or five jobs have all been up because of how busy everyone is and material costs.”
At the Oct. 3 meeting, Powell mentioned that the district had $335,000 budgeted for teacher raises or bonuses and $100,000 budgeted for the purchase of a new bus.
“If we start looking at the bus and teacher bonuses or pay raises, that’s almost half a million,” he said then.
The board voted at its Oct. 15 meeting to forego staff bonuses or raises this year so that the funding could be used to make up some of the difference. Board members Travis Gregory and Tyler Ashworth voted against the motion.
“I know the last several years we’ve given a bonus,” Powell said at the meeting, “and in the situation we’re in with the building project I don’t believe it’s in the best interest of the district to give a bonus at this time.”
He continued, “I believe any excess money we have needs to go into the building fund for our building project.”
According to Gattis, the new high school should be completed in the next 14 to 15 months.