BHS officials stress $91M renovation estimate a starting point

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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) Officials for the Burlington High School renovation project want to clear the air about their budget after their first set of estimated costs placed them $21 million over their $70 million budget.

It's a facelift members of the school board say is long overdue. "Waited 55 years for real improvements, not Band-Aids" said Clare Wool, the school board's chair.

The renovations were budgeted at $70 million, but the estimated cost is closer to $91 million. Tom Peterson, whose company is heading and organizing the project designs, says their team is working hard to make sure reconstruction of the building is done correctly and within the budget.

"After the bond vote we will be inviting the public and students, faculty, staff, administrators to have their input on the design of the project," Peterson said. He insists that the project is in no way over-budget, and that the estimated projection was just that -- a projection. "It's not gone out to bid, it's only a schematic design. This is a price check after getting all that input from the community, this is a price check on the numbers, and now its up to us to balance it."

Burlington taxpayers we spoke with understand the high school needs an upgrade and say they feel this is a good investment in education.

"I think that Burlington High School has been in need of a renovation for a while and they're really behind the times when it comes to accessibility," said Sarah Beal, a local resident.

"If we don't spend the money we're just going to keep doing Band-Aids, and we know from technology that patches only work so well for so long, so I think it's actually a really good investment," said local resident Wednesday Sampson.

Wool says that this renovation has been needed for many years. "Having seen some of the disrepair exist, and the lack of investment, it's been incredibly rewarding," she said.

The project's oversight committee meets on the third Thursday of every month and residents can get updates on where the project stands as well as ask questions and give their opinions. "The public's investment in this building is of utmost importance and I respect everybody's opinions and input," Wool said.