87.2 F
Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Board approves ‘shocking’ $2.9 million contract for design of new school in Silver Springs Shores

After expressing shock at the overall price tag, Marion school officials approved a nearly $3-million contract on Tuesday evening for the design of a new middle school in Silver Springs Shores.

The Marion County School Board unanimously approved a contract with Harvard Jolly Architecture for “Architectural Design Services” of a new school on Tuesday evening.

Based in West Palm Beach, the architecture firm will be paid over $2.9 million for the design and management of the school, which is currently named “New Middle School ‘DD’,” according to county records.

The new school will be located on Parcel 37506-002-00 in Silver Spring Shores. It is situated just over a mile northwest of Lake Weir High School and just over a mile northeast of Emerald Shores Elementary School.

A new middle school is planned for Silver Spring Shores. (Photo: Marion County Property Appraiser)
A new middle school is coming to Silver Spring Shores. (Photo: Marion County Property Appraiser)

During Tuesday’s meeting, multiple board members expressed shock at the overall price tag for the project.

“It just continues to surprise me, the rise in costs, for everything that we do,” said vice chair Lori Conrad. Conrad, who represents District 2, noted that “building new schools is expensive” and “The cost of the architectural design at almost $3 million, I was just really shocked.”

Chair Nancy Thrower expressed similar sentiments.

“I concur with vice chair Conrad,” said Thrower, before explaining that the contract included far more than just design. “As a tax payer, you think architectural design and then you look at the 85-page contract and it’s a lot more than a picture.”

Thrower cited the separate design phases of the project and suggested the county was paying for “everything down to the square inch.”

According to the contract, over 63% of the cost will be paid out in three design phases: Schematic Design ($522,305), Design Development ($435,254), and Construction Document ($870,507).

The itemization of the contract between the school board and Harvard Jolly Architecture. (Photo: Marion County School Board)
The itemization of the contract between the school board and Harvard Jolly Architecture. (Photo: Marion County School Board)

During her remarks, Thrower suggested that, despite the price tag, the county had to be selective in its choice, which weeded out local options.

“I too, was shocked by the amount of money. And also, I realized that, what we do as a school system, we can’t just take any architectural firm,” said Thrower, suggesting that firms had to “pass very stringent requirements” to be considered.

“While I’ll always look to trying to give business as close to home as possible, we are also tasked as the fiscal agents to be fiscally responsible,” said Thrower.

In reference to remarks made about Lake Weir Middle School and other comments made in response to Ocala-News.com’s story about the contract, Thrower said it was nice to “see so much interest in the community.”

“When a school has reached long past the end of its useful life, there is a break point, where it becomes more fiscally responsible to replace the school,” said Thrower in reference to Lake Weir Middle School. Thrower said she was happy to see the community show an interest in schools like LWMS that need attention.

“I’m grateful that we’re moving forward, I’m really grateful that we’re doing all we can to relieve the pressure and get some of these schools online as school as possible,” said Thrower.

The contract calls for Harvard Jolly Architecture to assist the school district in the various stages of development, from selecting a contractor, to managing the details of the project.

According to county records, the firm will “reuse the existing architectural design for West Boynton Middle School,” accounting for any changes in building codes across the counties.

A rendering showing West Boynton Middle School. (Photo: Harvard Jolly Architecture)
A rendering showing the West Boynton Middle School in Palm Beach County, Florida. (Photo: Harvard Jolly Architecture)

West Boynton Middle School consists of four buildings, including a 105,000-square-foot, 3-story building and two, one-story buildings.

Read the complete contract between the Marion County School Board and Harvard Jolly Architecture here.