As the cost estimate for rebuilding Agua Fria Elementary School continues to skyrocket, members of the Agua Fria neighborhood question whether project features designed to placate them will be the first to get cut.
Agua Fria Neighborhood Association President William Mee and neighbors Tamara Lichtenstein and Genesis Purce brought these concerns before the Santa Fe Public Schools Board of Education Monday during the public comment period of the board's study session. Mee said that the project's architect, Claudio Vigil, made promises to the neighborhood for special features of the project, including
a wall on the west and south part of the property, shielding landscaping and preservation of parts of the historic adobe building in an exhibit at the new school.
"As the budget for the project evaporates away, these what I'm calling 'amenities' would be in jeopardy of not getting done or not getting done well," Mee told the board. "What we would like is a resolution from the Board of Education to specify what can be provided to the community, because right now we have nothing in writing, yet a lot of promises have been made."
Mee's concerns stem from an announcement last week that all of the construction bids for the project were wildly over Vigil's projected budget. The school's construction was projected by Vigil to cost $16 million; each of the eight bids the school received was upwards of $22 million.
BoE Vice President Glenn Wikle tells SFR that he thinks Mee's concern is warranted.
"If that’s what they were told they were going to get, I think we need to live up to what was promised," Wikle says.
Lichtenstein told the board that the rebid process creates an opportunity to reconsider one of the more controversial aspects of the project—the proposed demolition of a 1930's-era adobe building.
"Please reconsider demolishing Agua Fria’s traditional adobe schoolhouse," Lichteinstein told the board. "I feel we have an opportunity to have another look at the situation because of what happened with the bids coming in too high and affecting construction and demolition schedules for the summer."
Wikle said at the study session that he thinks SFPS's construction team should give the idea of building the new school on a different site a fresh look.
"We're trying to squeeze a huge school building into a tight property," Wikle said.
Wikle also tells SFR that he has concerns about the project being delayed because summer—the ideal time for school construction—is a-wastin'.
"All the extra maneuvering to accomodate the children means the cost of construction is higher during those days than it is when the school's not operating," Wikle says.
Agua Fria Elementary School Construction Manager Leo Prenevost confirms that the project won't be starting this summer.
"This is July and we don't have a contractor on board," Prenevost says. "I don't see us having a contractor this summer."
Yet another reason to question whether the bond money funding the project will really be able to cover it.