The Baltimore County Board of Education, in an effort to meet school repair and renovation deadlines, has approved a $6.3 million contract with a Texas company to manage work projects at about 45 schools during the next five months.
The contract includes an option that would allow the board to extend the contract with 3D/International Inc. of Houston to cover another 12 months of school construction, said Donald F. Krempel, director of physical facilities.
"This contract will allow us to complete this program within the schedule originally anticipated," Krempel said yesterday, referring to a plan to have work at 45 elementary schools completed by summer 2001. All 102 elementary schools will be repaired by summer 2002.
"This way, we can complete the spending of our capital monies as allocated," Krempel said. "We might even come in under budget."
School officials have planned about $246 million in elementary school repair and construction projects during the next two years. The work is part of a $530 million face lift recommended by consultants who surveyed the county's aged school facilities two years ago.
Baltimore County's contract with 3D/International won praise from state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer yesterday. "I wish all schools would do this," Schaefer said during a meeting of the state Board of Public Works, which oversees school construction funds.
Once Baltimore County's elementary schools have been renovated, work will begin on the school system's middle and high schools. Some repairs, including window replacement at some high schools, have been completed or are in the planning stages.
The contract with 3D/International, which has worked for more than 75 school systems nationwide, including districts in Los Angeles and Houston, represents the final stage of a multiyear effort to straighten out the physical facilities department, once rife with problems.
About four years ago, an audit disclosed that department officials routinely awarded work without competitive bidding, misrepresented contracts to gain board approval, mismanaged projects and hired people who did business with the school system.
Krempel was hired last fall to help rebuild the physical facilities department.
Krempel has tried to regain the trust of board members, some of whom had grown tired of contract price overruns and last-minute changes.
Krempel has assured the board that the contract with 3D/International is the best option for the school system, which lacks the staff members and expertise to fulfill the multimillion-dollar construction plan on its own.
The school system says it might save money if 3D/International can negotiate lower prices for materials and labor.