The Payson Unified School District board belatedly approved an already completed $25,000 façade on the new agricultural sciences building, but not without an ever-so-polite scolding.
Superintendent Casey O’Brien sought board approval for the upgraded entrance to the $1,067,625 agricultural building, with the cost coming from the state-funded Northern Arizona Vocational Institute of Technology (NAVIT) program.
Only problem was — the new entryway was already complete.
“Shouldn’t this have been brought to us before it was done?” asked board member Rory Huff, in a rare moment of prickly board independence.
“Technically, the board can approve it” either before or after it’s complete, observed O’Brien.
He noted that the original design for the building had included the covered entryway to the metal building, but administrators had decided to hold off building it until the very end to make sure construction costs didn’t exceed the money available from NAVIT.
“It was part of the original design,” explained Casey, “but we cut back, so we weren’t sure we were going to make it.”
Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Bobette Sylvester then added, “but you’re correct. The timing is not perfect.”
The change order presented to the board on Monday would cover the cost of putting the covered façade over the main entrance to the building. The contractor had also agreed to fix some drainage problems at the entrance as part of the project.
In a memo explaining the need for the change, Sylvester wrote, “From the beginning of the project we knew we had them in a very lean budget. Thru the design process and building review process, we had many (Payson)-required changes that increased the cost to WE O’Neil while our price remained constant. One of the design items that as a team we eliminated was a façade to mark the entrance to the building. Upon construction, we decided that with a building of this size and importance, it needed the formal entry as well as some water redirection away from existing buildings and a sidewalk for student access.”
The board briefly discussed the changes, which would be funded out of the original NAVIT grant. The program provides money for vocational programs at 11 districts in northern Arizona, providing about $10,000 per student. The participating districts include both PUSD and Gila Community College.
Payson won funding for an ag building shortly before the state budget crisis spurred repeated cuts in NAVIT funding, especially in the money available for new projects. Last year, NAVIT cut its staff by 30 percent and lost $500,000 in funding for capital projects.
After a brief discussion, board member Matt Van Camp called for a vote, saying “We don’t want to micro-manage construction of a building.”
The board voted unanimously to approve the change. But board chairwoman Barbara Underwood had the last word. “Just as a side note for the future, we’d rather see these change orders before construction starts.”