Thursday, Jan. 16
of steel ups
school buildings' costs
Officials scrambling for solutions
[JAN. 16, 2003]
things hold true for the junior high as they did for Central, we are
looking at a significant shortfall." That was the way School
District 27 board president Bruce Carmitchel broke the news that
projected costs for the new Lincoln Junior High School are well
above previous estimates.
At Wednesday evening's board meeting,
Carmitchel said the cost for a bare-bones new junior high, without a
telephone system, new furniture or adequate casework, will be $7.4
million dollars, and the amount left to build it is about $5.8.
No bids have been let for the new
school yet, so the projected shortfall is "based on the assumption
that we are going to be unpleasantly surprised when the bids come
in," he said. "Nobody is more disappointed than I am," he added.
The cost of the new Central School was
originally estimated at $106 per square foot but actually came to
$117.89 per square foot for building and site work. The $117.89
figure is being used to estimate costs for the junior high.
Carmitchel said he has had one day to
digest the bad news, after projected costs were given to him by
construction management firm S.M. Wilson.
Costs also went over budget for the new
Central School now under construction behind the existing Central.
To get within budget estimates, the board made some major changes,
called "value engineering," going to pre-engineered structural steel
and a metal roof instead of shingles, and shaving other costs
However, most of the same cost-cutting
alternatives were used in the planning for the 51,000-square-foot
junior high, especially the use of pre-engineered steel. The
unexpectedly high price of steel was the biggest factor that sent up
the cost of the new Central, according to Superintendent Robert
"We have to come up with a plan,"
Carmitchel told the board, and he outlined three possibilities to
deal with the projected $1.6 million deficit in construction funds.
One plan would be to somehow find more
money, such as going to voters and asking them to pass another
referendum. In November of 2000, voters approved issuing $4.1 in
bonds, which qualified the district to receive an $8,318,181 state
grant to complete the $12.4 million building project.
Another plan would be to spend down all
reserve money the district has saved for a "rainy day." Kidd
expressed reservations about that option because of possible future
cuts in state revenue.
The third option, Carmitchel said, was
"to drastically reduce the scope of the project."
It wasn't an option he liked. "We are
going to be proud of Central School, and we want to be proud of the
junior high," he said.
Architect Dave Leonatti suggested that
the board put out bids for demolition of the two existing buildings,
Central School and the present junior high, so they would have some
firm cost figures in mind.
He also suggested the district might
save money by changing the design of the school. The present plan
calls for a gymnasium and stage design similar to that of the new
Central, and a three-story classroom unit, one story each for grades
six, seven and eight.
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A two-story design might save from
$200,000 to $300,000, but it would have the disadvantage of some
classrooms without exterior windows. Because of the four-pipe
heating and cooling system to be used in the new school, rooms
without exterior windows would be comfortable, he said. However, a
two-story classroom unit would change the overall look of the
building from high and lean to low and boxy.
Board member Marilyn Montgomery
suggested the junior high stage could be eliminated, and those
students could use the Central School stage for special activities.
Leonatti said he had already done a schematic drawing of the school
without the stage and with a slightly "toned down" gym. He also
pared down the mechanical and kitchen space, altogether cutting
about 4,000 square feet. That plan could save as much as $468,000,
"It would still not be the $1 million
we need," Carmitchel said.
Board member Steven Rohrer suggested
saving the present junior high gymnasium. Board member Joe Brewer
said he thought that would make demolition difficult because the gym
is not a separate structure.
Other suggestions were to cut out the
sixth-grade classrooms and keep the junior high as it is now, just
seventh and eighth grades; move the junior high to the new Central
School and build a Central School on the junior high site; renovate
the old building; and build a new junior high on the site of Adams
School on Nicholson Road. The Adams School site has room for another
building, but Brewer pointed out the water table is high and site
work would be expensive. Bill Ahal of S.M. Wilson said the site
might allow for a one-story school, which would also be a cost
The board scheduled a special meeting
on Monday, Feb. 3, at 6:30 p.m. to continue working on the problem.
Leonatti will come up with figures for several alternatives,
including saving the present gym, and he and the Wilson firm will
look at the Adams School site.
Kidd said he would be going over
figures to determine exactly how much of the construction money
still remains by the Feb. 3 meeting. He said the district has
invested the funds from the bond issue, but low interest rates have
cut expected revenues from investments.
He said he will also consult with the
school district's attorney to determine whether the district can
legally adopt some of the alternatives suggested, such as building
on a different site.
business, the board adopted the official 2003-2004 calendar and set
a date of April 8 for a regular meeting at which they will canvass
the results of the April 1 election of board members. Last day for
filing petitions to run for the board is Monday, Jan. 20, by 5 p.m.
to diminish over central Illinois this afternoon
[JAN. 16, 2003]
storm will continue to move east out of the Midwest this afternoon.
Therefore, the snow will taper off to flurries by midafternoon.
For Champaign, DeWitt, Fulton, Logan,
Mason, Piatt and Vermilion counties, including the cities of Canton,
Champaign, Clinton, Danville, Havana, Lewistown, Lincoln, Mason
City, Monticello and Rantoul:
Snow advisory is canceled.
Light snow will
taper off to flurries by mid-afternoon with total snow accumulations
between 2 and 4 inches.
[to top of second column in
For Cass, Christian,
Clark, Clay, Coles, Crawford, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar,
Effingham, Jasper, Lawrence, Macon, Menard, Morgan, Moultrie,
Richland, Sangamon, Schuyler, Scott and Shelby counties, including
the cities of Beardstown, Charleston, Decatur, Effingham, Flora,
Jacksonville, Lawrenceville, Marshall, Mattoon, Newton, Olney,
Paris, Robinson, Rushville, Shelbyville, Springfield, Sullivan,
Taylorville, Toledo, Tuscola, Virginia and Winchester:
Heavy snow warning is canceled.
snow has diminished, so the heavy snow warning has been canceled. Light snow will continue to fall
across the area, then taper to flurries by midafternoon. Total
accumulations will be between 2 and 4 inches along and north of a
Taylorville-to-Paris line with lesser amounts to the south of this
appointments come undone
under new governor
Gov. Blagojevich clarifies previous
administration's personnel rules changes; appoints expert on ethics
and personnel to serve as special investigator
Governor's first full day in office
includes push for reform, budget savings
[JAN. 16, 2003]
SPRINGFIELD -- On his first
full day as Illinois' new chief executive, Gov. Rod Blagojevich took
his initial steps toward fulfilling his goal of bringing about
fundamental reform to state government.
Through a series of executive orders
and additional directives, Blagojevich on Tuesday took action aimed
at restoring people's faith in their leaders and imposing greater
discipline on state spending.
"Today, I am beginning -- and it is
only the beginning -- my fight to stop waste and inefficiency in
state government," the governor said Tuesday afternoon.
Foremost among the actions Blagojevich
carried out was the immediate notification of termination of
employment to individuals holding more than 30 positions that were
filled in the closing weeks of the previous administration.
Blagojevich has been advised that the
term appointments -- which were made by former Gov. Ryan after Oct.
15 -- can be terminated on the grounds that the rules under which
they were hired were changed invalidly and are therefore null and
void. Specifically, the new rules bypassed appropriate appointment
"I will not allow the status quo to
stand here in Springfield," Blagojevich said.
"Our state is facing an unprecedented
budget crisis. We cannot afford to waste a single dollar. The days
of taking care of insiders first and taxpayers last are over," he
In addition, Blagojevich directed
Central Management Services to clarify
that the rule change, which had been pushed forward by the previous
administration, had been carried out improperly and should therefore
be set aside. By promoting the rules change during the summer of
2002, Gov. George Ryan's administration had attempted to lock
political appointees into long-term positions.
The former administration's measure had
also weakened assurances that appointees were well-qualified for
The new governor also appointed Mary
Lee Leahy, an attorney who is renowned for her work specializing in
ethics and personnel issues, to serve as a special investigator for
employment and personnel to revise state hiring rules and to find
unnecessary and unqualified personnel.
Blagojevich also placed a hold on the
heads of departments and agencies, preventing them from hiring new
personnel. He also targeted for reform a perk long favored by state
employees: the free-wheeling use of state-owned cars.
"I have voiced my pledge to bringing
about change to state government. These are the first steps."
Blagojevich made his comments Tuesday
after entering his office in the state Capitol for the first time
since taking the oath of office as governor. The executive orders he
signed embodied his call for "an end to business as usual in
Springfield," representing that a new era in state government is now
His actions were as follows:
Elimination of late-term appointments
Blagojevich took steps leading to the
removal of a number of term appointments made by his predecessor in
the last weeks of the previous administration. These term
appointments included many personal allies of the previous governor
and other politically connected individuals.
Among the positions eliminated by
Blagojevich were the director of the Illinois Building Commission,
who had a salary of $99,000; manager of county fairs and horse
racing, at a salary of $80,000; and manager of consumer education
and information for the
Department of Insurance, at a salary of $101,000.
"I want to be clear -- without
exception --- every individual we find who is unqualified for his or
her job, every one of these individuals who is not essential to the
function of state government, every one of these individuals who
does not share my commitment to changing business as usual in state
government will be terminated," Blagojevich said.
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The governor's special investigator for
employment and personnel will also be assigned to determine whether
the positions to which late-term appointees were assigned are indeed
valid positions, whether they existed prior to the appointments and
-- if not -- whether they were vacant for an extensive period of
time, which would call into question their need.
Employees and appointees who were
removed through the actions taken today will have the opportunity to
apply for reinstatement to their positions. Their qualifications
will be judged on a competitive basis against other candidates.
Declaration that Ryan administration rule changes are invalid
Underscoring his commitment to reform
and fairness, Blagojevich took steps to prohibit his administration
from taking advantage of the same latitude enjoyed by the previous
administration when it moved to lock its allies into long-term
Blagojevich directed CMS to set aside
the steps taken over the summer by the Ryan administration that made
it easier to lock appointees into long-term positions. The governor
did so on the grounds that the rules under which they were hired
were invalidly carried out and are therefore null and void.
Blagojevich's declaration would restore
the probationary period for such appointments to the original
duration of six months, rather than the 30 days to which it had been
In addition, such appointees would have
to again be chosen from an eligibility list to ensure that they are
well-qualified for their positions. The Ryan administration's rule
change -- which had been sent to the Joint Committee on
Administrative Rules -- had weakened that standard.
"I intend to use every power I have at
my discretion as governor to eliminate unqualified, unnecessary and
overpaid individuals wherever I find them in state government," he
"The taxpayers of Illinois deserve only
the best and the brightest working for them, and I intend to find
need for state vehicles
The new governor also took aim at what
is likely a waste of taxpayer dollars -- and, perhaps, an
often-abused perk among state government appointees: the use and
abuse of state-owned vehicles. He issued an executive order calling
on all agencies to conduct a thorough review of the cars used by
their employees, and he issued an immediate freeze on the purchase
of new vehicles.
Effective immediately, each agency will
be blocked from ordering, purchasing, leasing or otherwise acquiring
any new vehicles, other than those needed for public safety, road
clearing, emergency services or other urgent needs.
The governor cited figures showing that
the state owned more than 13,000 vehicles as of Nov. 1, 2002.
Among the agencies in possession of
state vehicles were the
Historic Preservation office, which has 55 cars; the
Commission, which has 24 cars; and the
Gaming Board, which has 26
In at least three instances,
individuals had been assigned two state vehicles each.
limits on new state hiring
Given the state's severe fiscal crisis,
the governor imposed a hiring freeze to block agency directors from
hiring new state personnel. The limitation would apply evenly to
department and agency directors appointed by the Blagojevich
administration as well as those appointed by the previous
administration. To guarantee that all new hiring takes into account
all new staffing decisions would require the approval of the
governor and his office.
"State government under my leadership
will do more with less. That effort begins today," the governor
governor's news conference.)
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