by KIM HILSENBECK
Hays CISD board members learned last week that the cost to build the new WELL clinic, currently housed at Simon Middle School, has increased more than $200,000 since the initial estimates last spring.
WELL stands for Wellness Encouraged through Lifelong Learning.
The school-based health center, which serves all Hays CISD students and their siblings, accepts Medicaid, CHIP, Superior and Amerigroup insurance. Families without insurance are provided services based on a sliding scale fee.
Construction costs for the new building were estimated at $560,175 prior to receipt of any bids. An additional $45,360 was budgeted for architect and engineering fees, geotechnical and survey work, and city of Kyle inspections.
Carter Scherff, deputy superintendent, told trustees at the regular August meeting that the cost for completing the facility will now be $825,360, which is $219,825 more than the estimate.
According to district officials, grant funds will pay for $500,000 of the new building. The remaining $325,360 would have to come from one of three funding sources: bond money leftover from a 2009 election, the district’s General Fund, or private donations.
Public notice of bidding for the work occurred in February; the district received four sealed bids from construction firms.
The board in place at the time authorized Scherff to award the contract in a 5-2 vote to Bartlett Cocke General Contractors for $780,000,
Marty Kanetzky and Sandra Bryant voted no, while Shaun Bosar, Burt Bronaugh, Patti Wood, Meredith Keller and Willie Tenorio approved the motion.
But at the August meeting, board member Kanetzky said, “I didn’t understand all the extra money we have to kick in for the other stuff.”
However, most of last Thursday’s discussion was not about why the costs went up, but rather about from where the district should pull the additional funds, either the General Fund or bond money, or perhaps a grant from an organization such as the St. David’s Foundation.
Kanetzky asked Scherff, “Why can’t this come out of maintenance fund? We’re cutting a lot out of general fund to pay for this extra cost.”
Scherff reminded the board that he was authorized in the spring to spend money from the General Fund for the construction costs.
“In all fairness,” said Keller, board vice-president, “several of us asked [back then] why we’re not using the bond money.”
All of this discussion could be moot if the district receives grant money to help pay for the additional costs. The district is currently in negotiations with the St. David’s Foundation, according to Hays CISD Superintendent Jeremy Lyon.
At Thursday’s meeting, Lyon said the new WELL clinic will be a model school-based health center for Texas and the nation.
“The clinic sees 3,000 kids a year and includes life-saving medical services,” Lyon said.
Keller said she sees a direct line from wellness to weighted average daily attendance (WADA) and student achievement.
“I don’t have the knowledge to see if $830,000 is a good deal,” Keller said. “But I’m proud to have a WELL clinic.”
The board approved taking the money from the bond rather than the General Fund.
Still, some board members want to discuss how the initial estimates were so much lower than both the bids and the projected final costs.
“We need to talk about who does the initial estimates. The bids were half again as much higher,” Kanetzky said.