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Date of Issue: March 17, 2005

School board approves slimmed $8.55 million AME budget
Revised drawings
The Anna Maria Elementary School construction team illustrated its cost-cutting measures with hand drawn revisions to the layout of the campus. The hatch-marked buildings represent those that will remain in the plan. These include the originally proposed two-story classroom building at the center of campus. To the north, the existing auditorium and classroom building will be partially renovated. To the right of the new classroom building, the existing covered play area will remain unaltered. Islander Photo: Diana Bogan

The trimmed budget for Anna Maria Elementary School's construction was added as an emergency agenda item and approved at the Manatee County School Board's Monday night meeting.

The school's construction team has been directed to reduce the school's $10 million project to a more palatable $8 million at a workshop Sept. 13 and, in two weeks, succeeded in reducing the total budget to $8.55 million which was unanimously approved by school board members.

AME construction team members present included Sherry Dowling, director of construction services; Jane Dreger, construction services project director; Tom Peacock of contractor W.G. Mills; AME principal Kathy Hayes; and community representatives Don Schroder, Steve Shields, Suki Janisch and Michael Pierce.

Dowling outlined for the board the cost reduction items the team agreed upon during its meeting.

The first item Dowling addressed was the two-story classroom building that will sit at the center of the campus. This building, Dowling said, has not been altered. The team kept the metal roof and Bahama shutters that the community indicated at earlier meetings would give the building an "Island" style.

What the team did choose to eliminate were the following:

  • The new auditorium and adjoining art and music rooms.
  • A new covered play area.
  • Some of the landscaping and playground funds.
  • The north parking lot, which would have contained an additional 26 parking spaces.

    The team included some new items in lieu of some eliminated expenditures.

    The existing auditorium will be partially renovated. Dowling said there will not be a full renovation of the building, but instead it would be a 50 percent renovation to avoid the need to bring it entirely up to code. The building will be upgraded and its air quality issues addressed to make it more usable, but it still would not be a suitable emergency shelter for students.

    The team has designated a budget of $250,000 for the renovation of the auditorium and Superintendent Roger Dearing added that the renovation will include matching the exterior and roof of the building to complement new construction.

    The team will also renovate the existing classroom wing that currently includes Karen Newhall's and Deborah Thomas' classrooms. This building, referred to as "building 9" is the most recent building added to AME's campus and will also undergo a partial renovation similar to the auditorium. The team has designated an additional $250,000 for this renovation.

    Building 9 will house the art and music room on the new campus in addition to extra classrooms. Dowling said keeping the existing auditorium and Building 9 actually benefits the community by adding more square footage to the project than the previously proposed plan.

    The team also chose to maintain the covered play area as it is instead of moving it or building a new covered area adjacent to the planned new playground locations. After the new building is constructed, the covered pavilion will not be near the playground. The playground will be on the north side of the building.

    Dowling said the landscaping budget has been reduced from $130,000 to $91,000. Now that the auditorium will remain in its current location, it will no longer provide a backdrop for the proposed outdoor amphitheater. Dowling said he also anticipates needing less fill on the campus and, therefore, there will not be a full amphitheater.

    Dowling said he can assure the community that the remaining oak trees will not be removed.

    The playground budget has also been reduced from $57,000 to $27,000 - in addition to the basketball court and playground equipment installed at the start of the 2003-04 school year.

    Dowling said he couldn't comment on the design of the new playground or the equipment that would be installed since those plans have not been finalized. He said there is some additional design work that needs to be done and that the playground and landscaping are natural areas that can be easily expanded later.

    Finally, parking spaces were eliminated from the plan where Building 9 currently exists. The elimination of this parking lot reduces the spaces on the original design from 76 to 50 spaces.

    Board member Larry Simmons asked that the team consider adding parking back into the plan if, during construction, money was saved in other areas.

    Dowling told the board that the new plan provides the capacity to do more if money becomes available. For example, the auditorium renovation would be part of the last phase and if other revenue became available the proposed new auditorium and adjoining music and art annex could be added at the end of the construction phase.

    Dowling also told the board that if the cost to renovate Building 9 is less than $250,000, the difference can be designated elsewhere, such as to the auditorium.

    With the board's approval, the construction team has the green light to move forward with designating a construction timeline and to begin work on campus.

    Board member Harry Kinnan said the community should see dirt moving as quickly as possible.

    "I think this plan reflects the priorities of the community, such as keeping the auditorium. There has been a lot of give and take but the integrity hasn't been compromised," Kinnan concluded.