Blasting could start any day at middle school site

Blasting could start any day now at the site of construction for the new middle school.

Representatives of RRMM Architects and Gay and Neel provided an update on construction of the school Wednesday evening to a joint meeting of the Pulaski County Board of Supervisors and School Board.

Board members learned that the early grading of the school site is on schedule and blasting at the site was expected to begin possibly as early as today (Friday) despite the rainy weather of the past few days.

The early grading of the site of the new Pulaski County Middle School has already included removing trees, draining and cleaning cattle ponds, stripping top soil, demolishing three existing structures including a house and barn and creating two sediment basins.

The early grading work continues with building fill work due to be complete by Sept. 15, and completion of grading of the main campus area expected by Nov. 1.

Blasting at the site is due to be completed by Nov. 9.

Bid opening for the construction phase of the $47 million project will take place on Aug. 30 with awarding of the contract set for early September.

The contractor that wins the job is expected to receive a notice to proceed with construction by mid-October.

The new consolidated middle school is due to be completed by the start of school in 2020.

Work will continue at the site through the winter months, it was noted Wednesday. By then, grading will be completed and the pad for the building will have been set, allowing workers to raise steel during cold weather.

The presenters also touched on the effort to gain approval from VDOT for a traffic signal at the Route 11 – Thornspring Road intersection.  They noted grading for the potential entrance leading from the intersection has been completed, while designers continue to provide information to VDOT.

They noted VDOT regulations require that all other potential options – such as a roundabout – be disproved before finally approving a traffic signal for the intersection.

Speaking as if the signal will eventually be approved, the presenters said work will be continued on the school in a way that will allow for switching the main entrance to the signaled intersection once it is approved.

A variety of topics were discussed in Wednesday’s over two-hour-long meeting, including capital needs and funding.

Chris Stafford, Assistant Superintendent for Finance & Business Operations briefed the boards on funding for the school system’s capital fund.

He noted several capital projects were completed in schools over the summer, including HVAC work at Critzer Elementary, flooring and roof work at Pulaski Elementary and others.

Following that work, Stafford said just under $315,000 remained in the capital fund at the end of the fiscal year, with another $352,000 being added in “carryover” funding to put the capital fund balance at $667,000.

Due to an earlier agreement between the two boards, unused funds held by the school board at the end of the fiscal year can be “carried over” to the next fiscal year. Those funds are placed in the capital fund to provide money for capital improvement needs in the county’s schools such as building repairs, new equipment, etc.

Several projects remain on the school system’s capital needs list, with the most expensive of the needs being conversion of the high school’s CTE building from electric to natural gas and at least a partial replacement of doors at the high school.

The gas conversion project is expected to cost in the neighborhood of $975,000, however, Stafford said that figure might be low.  Another $300,000 is the price tag on just getting started on the door replacement at the high school.

It was noted there are 186 doors at PCHS, and some interior door sets will costs upwards of $10,000 each to replace.

Board members discussed briefly the idea of either taking the capital funds on hand and spending the money on several lower priced needs, or holding the money until more is available to tackle a large need – such as the gas conversion.

County Administrator Jonathan Sweet applauded supervisors on their work to appropriate so much money to public education during the past fiscal year.

He noted that some $15.5 million had been provided by the supervisors for school operations. And when included with capital improvement funding and debt service, the single-year investment in education made by the supervisors is just over $21.5 million. The largest ever single-year investment.

“That is something to celebrate,” Sweet said.

By MIKE WILLIAMS, The Patriot