Construction of the new Dover High School building was the main topic up for discussion at Capital School District’s Board of Education meeting on Wednesday.
A portion of the construction is currently under review due to budget constraints and could remain in limbo until early 2014, just five months before the district hopes to have the green light to begin moving students and staff into the new school.
Amenities currently being reviewed include three parking lots; a portion of football stadium seating; the auxiliary, baseball and softball fields; two tennis courts; a greenhouse; a field house and the east entrance into the school.
Even if these features are not present when school opens, space is being allocated for them and can be reserved for future construction, according to Brad Cowen, the project manager for the site.
Cowen presented the board of education with a revised site plan including these changes on Wednesday, followed by concern raised by school board member Sean Christiansen.
“Am I disappointed that I’m possibly not going to see what I voted for? Yeah, I am,” Christiansen said. “I think every other resident in the Capital School District that supported this referendum is.”
EDis, the project’s construction management company, is still waiting for three bid packages, estimated at $5 million, to come before determining for certain how much funding they have left and what they will be able to do with it, Cowen said.
Both Cowen and Capital Superintendent Dr. Michael Thomas have pointed toward the roughly $3 million the district spent building the west entrance of the school as the reason for the budget crunch. Originally the developer of Leander Lakes, a proposed adjacent subdivision, was to be responsible for building Dover High Drive, the road that would lead to the west entrance of the school and to the neighborhood, Cowen said. The developer, Salisbury, Md.-based Rinnier Development Company, was not able to fulfill that responsibility, Cowen said, leading Capital School District to take on the responsibility of constructing the $1.3 million road. DelDOT stepped in and required that the road be built to state standards, which led to the district to spend roughly $3 million on the construction, he said.
Requests to Rinnier Development Company for comment on their role in the project were not returned by the Dover Post’s deadline.
School board members expressed particular concern Wednesday evening over the east entrance, which was designed to provide another route into the property during high attendance events and for daily bus traffic.
Ann Marie Townshend, director of Planning for the City of Dover, previously expressed concerns for emergency safety if the road were to be eliminated and Christiansen echoed her concern.
Page 2 of 2 - “This road is very important to me as a firefighter,” Christiansen said. “What if we’re coming in one way and the other way is blocked? That will block all your access to that school, potentially.”
Eliminating the east entrance is not ideal from a safety standpoint, Cowen admitted.
In the event that the east entrance is able to be constructed, the project will still be facing a hurtle, he said. In the original site plan, the entrance was slated to have a stoplight. DelDOT has since determined that the entrance would not warrant a light, meaning that bus drivers would need to be cautious in making left turns onto Del. Route 8, Cowen said.
“We are working with DelDOT to possibly make it a right turn only,” he said.
If the east entrance is not constructed, the school will still have two exits, both of which will be located on Dover High Drive, Cowen said. The district currently has an agreement with Rinnier Development Company that states the developer will be responsible for building a road that connects the west entrance to the Cannon Mills neighborhood, Cowen said.
“We do know that those drawings have gone through some review by DelDOT,” Cowen said. “I don’t know if they’re going to be able to complete that by May 2014. I don’t even want to speculate.”
EDis will be submitting their own plans to the city Sept. 20 and has a meeting scheduled with the planning commission on Oct. 21 to present the commission with their proposed site plan changes with the intention of asking the planning commission to give them until January to come up with a definitive plan, Cowen said.
“We’re not asking them to approve [the plan] or not approve it,” Cowen said. “What we’re asking from them is to give us more time, until January, until the remaining bid packages are bid and we can find out definitely how much money we have left for the road. We know we can do something. We’re close. We’re very, very close.”
Townshend, who previously informed the district that it would be best if they take action sooner rather than later, stated that she is comfortable with the proposed time line.
“I’ll be sweating,” she said. “I think as long as we are working on things between now and January it’s workable, but it means we don’t stop working behind the scenes on everything that needs to be done.”