Cumberland Times-News: Allegany school board accepts $50.8 million bid

Originally posted by the Cumberland Times-News on March 9, 2016

By Greg Larry - glarry@times-news.com

CUMBERLAND — The Allegany County Board of Education accepted a $50.8 million bid to construct a new high school on Haystack Mountain.

Ground breaking for the new school is expected in May. 

The school board on Tuesday voted to accept the bid from Altoona-based contractor Leonard S. Fiore Inc. 

Ed Root, board president, thanked the state, Allegany County, numerous teachers and officials for their support.

"In two years we will open a new high school," said Root. "The kids from Allegany will have the school they deserve. They will have a 21st century school instead of a early 20th century school."

The board approved an additional $508,000 in add-ons that include a running track, terrazzo flooring, data wiring for computer labs, auditorium seating and an acoustic cloud audio system.

Fiore's bid was the lowest of three bids that were presented to the board on Feb. 24.

"I'm looking forward to not putting children in a building that is so inadequate," said Laurie Marchini, board member.

The officials said the board has been working on the new Allegany project for six years.

"I am so excited," said Sara-Beth Bittinger, board member. "It has been a long time working on this project. I'm proud that we will get a new building in this community. I think we will be more attractive to the business community."

The board withheld some items such as the football/soccer field, topsoil and a geothermal pump system from the budget. Allegany County has expressed interest in building sports fields and supplying topsoil to help ease the expenses for the school.

BOE officials said Bill Valentine, Allegany County commissioner, has been supportive of lending plans that were arranged between the District 1 Delegation and the state that will allow the county to contribute up to 10 million additional dollars to the project over the next three years.

Marchini said the construction project will require two years to complete but the state has allowed the financing structure to be stretched over three years.

The board, with roughly $46.5 million secured, is still about $4 million short in funding for the project. However, BOE officials are confident that the state, county and delegation can bridge that gap in the coming 12 to 36 months.

In other the news from the meeting, the board approved a $112.1 million 2017 fiscal year budget that includes a request for an increase of $1.7 million in funding from Allegany County. The increase is above the minimum level the county can fund the school system under state law. The minimum funding level is known as "maintenance of effort." 

The state and county are the two largest funding sources for the school board. The state has already committed $76.4 million for the school board's 2017 fiscal budget. The county is being asking to contribute $31.9 million.

The board will present the budget, with its funding increase, to Allegany County on March 24. The county will vote to approve the budget or ask that it be amended.