Elmbrook board to examine $125 million price tag for new high schools


Elmbrook board to examine $125 million price tag for new high schools

Brookfield — The cost to build two new high schools for the Elmbrook School District has risen to $125 million, a surprising price tag that will be scrutinized for possible reductions, the School Board president said Wednesday.

But board President Bruce Nattinger stopped short of calling for a cost of less than $125 million, saying the final project must meet student needs and protect the community’s investment for the next 60 years.

“Did I have sticker shock with $125 million? Yes, absolutely,” Nattinger said in an interview Wednesday. “It was much more than we had understood it to be.

“We will clearly fine-tune the proposal to what we believe will provide an appropriate education for our students but still meet the community standards.”

The board will review a list of possible additions to and cuts from the $125 million project at a meeting at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the district administration building, 13780 Hope St.

The board plans to seek voter approval in a February referendum.

Consultants and architects had estimated in May 2003 that it would cost about $108 million to raze and rebuild Brookfield East and Central high schools, which are about 50 years old.

Architects subsequently have gathered input from district staff, administrators, school neighbors and others. That input has resulted in proposed bigger schools and more features than originally planned, architect Abie Khatchadourian told the School Board Tuesday night.

The $17.6 million cost increase includes:

* About $8.5 million in projected inflation in construction and material costs.

* About $5.9 million to increase the size of each high school by 23,531 square feet, to 388,259 square feet. The existing schools are about 242,000 square feet and 272,000 square feet.

* About $2.3 million for city requirements for curbs and gutters, sidewalks, a new road and storm water management, as well as addition of tennis courts and athletic field bleachers and lighting.

* About $550,000 to pay for an owner’s representative for the School District.

Neither the owner’s representative — Boldt Consulting Services — nor Plunkett Raysich Architects and CG Schmidt Construction will be paid by the School District unless or until a building plan is passed in a referendum.

Nattinger said Wednesday that he believed the building size would be scaled back.

A $108 million project was estimated to cost the owner of an average $280,000 house about $420 a year over a 20-year borrowing period.

Nattinger said that financing changes have brought that annual cost down to about $280 for a $108 million project.

Increasing the project to $125 million would again raise the annual cost to homeowners, he said.

Nattinger also noted that South Milwaukee recently built a new high school for $42 million. The Brookfield East and Central schools would cost about $62 million each.

“We’re trying to really understand the difference,” he said. “We know it’s (South Milwaukee’s new school) fewer square feet than our building. And there’s the cost of inflation.”

Given those two factors, he said, “we’re in the same ballpark with regard to construction costs.”

Board member Patrick Murphy, who favored remodeling the existing schools over building new ones, said Wednesday he was not thrilled with the new price tag.

“It’s still overpriced,” Murphy said. “I see no reason for tearing down two structurally sound and well-maintained buildings.”

Consultants suggested several ways to bring the project back in line with the $108 million estimate, such as reducing the size of the library, large group instruction rooms or physical education area.

A department head for applied technology complained to the board Tuesday that his department was the only one proposed to be cut in size — from 17,000 square feet to 11,000. And a group of neighbors of Central High School blasted the board for what it said was a dramatic revision of the proposed school layout from what they were shown in June.

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