BY MICHAEL J. RUDOLF
Expansion of the Susquehanna County Career and Technology Center will proceed.
With construction bids coming in more than $2 million lower than anticipated, the Elk Lake School Board voted Tuesday to go ahead with the project.
“We’ve got a great opportunity with what they’ve come in at,” said board President Chuck Place.
School officials had anticipated the project costing about $8.6 million, with actual building construction costs amounting to around $7.4 million, said Superintendent William Bush.
The actual bids totaled just over $5.4 million.
Bush explained that the remaining $1.2 million in the estimate is for equipment and supplies to get the center operational, and will be bid later in the process.
With the bids accepted, architect John Kropcho said construction should start in early December. He set a target completion date at the end of May 2012.
The winning bids came from Mar Paul Construction of Jessup as general contractor at $3,787,000; Master Mechanical Corp. of McAdoo for heating, ventilation and air conditioning at $844,120; Bognet Inc. of Hazleton for plumbing at $258,686; and Leber & Bonham Inc. of Scott Township for electrical work at $548,000.
That totals $5,437,806.
The expansion project includes new facilities for existing educational programs as well as new programs that are planned.
They include courses in auto body collision and repair technician; vehicle maintenance and small engine repair technology; security and protective services; electrical, electronics and communications engineering technology; health information and medical records technology, and criminal justice / police science.
In addition to Elk Lake, six other school districts send students to the center, including Blue Ridge, Lackawanna Trail, Montrose Area, Mountain View, Susquehanna Community and Tunkhannock Area.
Elk Lake owns and operates the career center, which is why it is responsible for the expansion. In the past, school officials noted that much of Elk Lake’s outlay would come back through tuitions paid by students from the other districts.
Elk Lake’s only cost would be for its share of the students who attend the school, Bush explained. He said district taxpayers are not paying for the entire cost of the project.
In April 2009, the board approved a funding plan for its share of the costs. The district plans to take out a 20-year mortgage, and pay it back with a one-time 1.1-mill tax increase.
Also, Elk Lake expects to get much of its outlay back through reimbursement from the state Department of Education.
Initially, district officials expected the state would return about 43 percent of the total cost. But with the low bids, Bush said the reimbursement could amount to 53 percent.
“That will mean somewhat of savings for our taxpayers,” said board member Arden Tewksbury.
In contrast to previous meetings where the expansion project was discussed, Tuesday’s session was sparsely attended.
Only eight people were in the audience, and few of them had any comment.
One resident, Craig Sprout, said he hoped the board was accurate in regard to the state reimbursement. He said with a new administration taking over in Harrisburg next year, things could change.
“I get a little scared when I hear you’re going to get 53 cents on the dollar when it’s not guaranteed,” Sprout said.
Kropcho said in more than 40 years of working on school projects, he has never seen the state fail to reimburse one once it has been approved by the state Department of Education.
According to architect John Kropcho, construction work on the expansion to the Susquehanna County Career and Technology Center is expected to begin in early December. The project is scheduled to be completed at the end of May 2012.
At previous meetings about the project, Kropcho said the expansion would more than double the space the career center has through a 37,000-square-foot addition.
The plans call for the addition to be on the opposite side of the parking lot that is by the career center’s current entrance. It would be in a new building in the area of the pavilion behind the school, Kropcho noted.
Elk Lake School District officials began looking into the expansion process in November 2008, when it hired Kropcho to begin feasibility studies.
The expansion will provide additional space for existing programs, plus room and facilities to accommodate six new educational programs.
The new programs were selected based on meetings between school officials and representatives of numerous businesses, both locally and out of the area.
The new programs would be:
Auto body collision and repair technician – Students are trained to repair damaged automotive vehicles such as automobiles and light trucks.
Vehicle maintenance and small engine repair technology – The course trains students to repair, service, maintain and diagnose problems on a variety of small gasoline engines.
Security and protective services – This program prepares students to perform entry-level duties as a police officer, fire fighter, paramedic and other safety services.
Electrical, electronics and communications engineering technology – The program prepares students to apply basic electronic principles and technical skills to the production, testing, installation and maintenance of electronic equipment.
Health information and medical records technology – Students learn to classify medical information and prepare records under the supervision of a medical records administrator.
Criminal justice / police science – This program trains students to perform entry-level duties as a patrolman, corrections officer, juvenile officer, security officer and probation officer.
Current programs offered at SCCTC include: automotive technology, carpentry and cabinetmaking, building and property management, business education, cosmetology, food services, health care technology, and cooperative education / diversified occupations.
Students at SCCTC are involved in a number of hands-on projects, including the construction of two homes, operating a restaurant, running a branch of the Procter & Gamble Mehoopany Employees Federal Credit Union, and others.