October 22, 2014

Elyria
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Riverbank site for Lorain High ‘dead as a doornail’

LORAIN — In an acknowledgement that the Black River high school site is too costly for the school district to build on, Lorain school officials are beginning due diligence studies on the Admiral King High School site as the next option for the construction of a future high school.

The school board’s facilities committee, comprised of members Jim Smith and Paul Biber, discussed whether the board should vote to stop the program of requirements, or POR, for the river site, commonly known as Site 3, from going to Columbus. The discussion was in light of Gary Kasper, senior project administrator from the Ohio School Facilities Commission, telling the board on Monday that the site possibly would drive the project’s cost $3 million over budget, which the district would have to pay.

“Based on comments from Mr. Kasper, I think it’s pretty clear you’re not going to be able to send the POR down because the treasurer won’t sign a certificate (to confirm funds are available),” Attorney Anthony Giardini said, as the district is facing an estimated $10.3 million deficit.

Biber confirmed the river site was no longer a possibility.

“The river site is dead as a doornail,” he said.

After checking with Kasper, the committee asked the district’s architects to conduct soil borings and initial testing on the Admiral King site in order to begin analysis as soon as possible.

“The only question now is, with this site across the street, there’s going to be the same issue,” board member Paul Biber said, referring to potential problems that may cost the district more money. The project’s budget is about $70 million and was mostly funded by the Ohio School Facilities Commission. Any costs that are not covered by the commission — which places stipulations on the funds — would have to be funded by the district.

Biber and Smith discussed different possibilities for the Admiral King site, including preserving the high school’s auditorium and attaching it to the new building. Architect Dana Strizzi, however, said it was too early to tell what any building would look like for the site as they have yet to begin analysis or the design process.

Chief Operations Officer Dan DeNicola said because the board previously approved sending the POR to Columbus, it would have to vote again on whether to rescind the POR. The program is still currently in the district’s possession, DeNicola said.

Smith and Biber discussed that if problems arise and building a new high school on the Admiral King site would go over budget as well, the district may be forced to rehabilitate Admiral King.

“The red flag is our costs, and if they go up, we’ll have to settle for a rehab,” Biber said.

Lorain Councilwoman-at-large Anne Molnar attended the meeting and said residents never wanted the school to be built by the Black River.

“I’m really happy to hear you’re talking about this site right here,” Molnar said, referring to Admiral King. “You really have to make the best decision for the children.”

Contact Kaitlin Bushinski at 329-7144 or kbushinski@chroniclet.com.