School Construction Schedule Delays Trigger $40K Payment to School Board Consultant

With a continued tight school budget sending Clarke County Public School administrators scraping every conceivable account for spare dollars, School Board contractor Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates is turning a tidy profit based on the County’s procrastination. In Clarke County’s case, the “lack of haste” has made waste for the school construction budget and has generated a $40K windfall profit for CRA.

CRA is providing architectural, planning and construction advice to the Clarke County School Board for the new high school building. On Monday night the School Board approved a year-old contract change order invoice submitted by CRA. The $40K payment is based on a clause in CRA’s contract allowing a cost escalation if either the scope or the duration of CRA’s  services to the School Board changes.

“The change order covered the cost  escalation and CRA overhead factors that applied to the delays  encountered in the schedule and did not correspond to any additional  services per se” said School Board Chairperson Robina Bouffault in an electronic mail message response to questions posed about CRA’s charges by the Clarke Daily News. “Complications incurred with both the Special Use Permit and the Site Plan  permitting result[ed] in a far lengthier permitting period than is normal,  and which had not been scheduled.”

“In the case of Clarke County, the scope of the work did not change, however the time specified in the  CRA’s Master Schedule was not adhered to.” Bouffault said in her e-mail.

According to Bouffault, charges such as CRA’s are standard in the construction industry “The  CRA contract was based upon form contracts recommended by the CMA  (Construction Management Association of America, Inc.) for both of our project  managers, Gannett-Fleming and CRA, and which included the cited escalation  clause. In September 2008 the School Board did a Request For Proposal for architects, and there were  presentations made to the board by four finalists in mid-October. The board  voted on retaining CRA at that time […] and Tom Judge and I (Bouffault was School Board Chairman in 2008) were appointed to  negotiate it.”

After negotiating the CRA contract Bouffault passed the document on to the School Board’s legal counsel for review. “After being reviewed by our attorneys, the contract was then  finalized and approved by the School Board [at the] end [of] October 2008. Cost  escalation clauses are routine in all such contracts, with both the scope of  work and the duration of same spelled out very clearly. Our Gannet Fleming contract has  the same type of clause which also includes the original Master Schedule.”

Once it became clear that Clarke County had exceeded the time requirement outlined in the agreement, CRA presented a contract change order invoice for $60K in 2009. According to Bouffault CRA “simply pointed out the delays, and applied the corresponding  contract condition 8.1.2 which they are entitled to do.”  However, the School Board was not in agreement with the amount charged and withheld payment.

“There had not been agreement on the  cost factors utilized by CRA, and we had both simply “agreed to disagree”  and had held the amount pending until now.” Bouffault said.

In Monday night’s School Board meeting unanimously approving the CRA invoice, no specific reasons for why the School Board had delayed the CRA payment nor the resolution offered by CRA to the issues, if any, were discussed in detail.  Nor was it clear what prompted CRA to voluntarily agree to reduce the  original cost escalation amount of the $60k down to $40k.

“We all felt that  this was an equitable adjustment, and it also reflects their on-going  collaborative attitude towards this project. They have done a good job of  working with the School Board and adapting to our requested changes along the way.” Bouffault said.

If CRA’s executives breathed a sign of relief after winning their year-long fight to extract their  revenues from Clarke County, the respite was short-lived. CRA’s latest invoice (CRA-020)  covering “alternate bid items”  included an unauthorized line-item charge of $5,299.78.

The line-item sought to recover “Overhead” costs calculated at 222%.

At last night’s meeting Chairwoman Bouffault said that CRA had since withdrawn the “Overhead” charge. The School Board approved CRA’s invoice less the unauthorized amount.

According Clarke County staff, during the year-long negotiation over payment of CRA’s  escalation clause invoice, CRA presented information to the School Board documenting salary and cost increases based on Clarke County’s delays. The School Board’s reaction, if any, to CRA’s accounting justification given our area’s high unemployment rate and low inflation was also not discussed.


  1. Right Winger says:

    Wow. The bleeding never stops, does it? I don’t fault CRA, I fault the entire School Board, of which the Chairwoman is the most responsible.

    Another $40K down the drain because of delays, delays, delays.

    Thank you, School Board of Clarke County, for your continued efforts to make Clarke County the laughing stock of Virginia. You’ve done a bang up job.

  2. I bet if these bills had to be paid out of the pockets of the board members….there would be no more delays! Freakin Ridiculous!

    • Right Winger says:

      I like the way you think! It seems that more money is going into the hands of architects and lawyers, rather than to the school building itself. I wonder what they’ll have to cut out of the plans now that will cover the $40K?? Drywall? Or perhaps they just want parents to donate time to build the school. I’m pretty handy with a hammer and saw and I can install a ceiling fan!

    • Two thumbs down on this topic….Too Funny!

  3. “Nor was it clear what prompted CRA to voluntarily agree to reduce the original cost escalation amount of the $60k down to $40k.”

    – Because they never thought anyone would actually miss the deadline so they just threw a number out there.

  4. I have tried really hard to not comment on the school situation, but it has become ridiculous. I couldn’t believe when the bond failed a number of years ago. We are one of the few (if not the only) county in the nation who has vetoed a bond to build schools. The opponents of the school did a great job then of scare tactics. When my son was in 6th grade I thought he would graduate from the new high school. Well, he graduates on Sunday so he is out. My younger son is a freshman and it definitely doesn’t look promising. What I find more annoying is that when they do finally build something it will be too small for the number of students and not have an auditorium and ………………. I don’t think anyone really wants to pay higher taxes, but sometimes you have to bite the bullet. I am sure the school board has some blame in this, but the citizens of Clarke County who voted against the bond how ever many years ago are also to blame. Surrounding school districts of Winchester, Jefferson Co., Frederick County and Loudoun all seem to be able to build nice schools when needed. It is really sad that Clarke can’t successfully build a school once every 25 years.

    • Right Winger says:

      The opponents were lead by the invisible hand of the BOS. BTW, the new school will have an auditorium, right next to the gym.

    • Debacle Watcher says:

      Did you know that one CC citizen actually went to Richmond and attempted to prevent that School Bond referendum from even getting on the ballot. That citizen was none other than our current School Board Chair. Anyone surprised?

  5. Tony Parrott says:

    Should we be surprised? I’ve heard all my life that “Time is Money”. This just drives it home.

  6. What does that bring our “Grand Total” down to now? (Before ground break) Just curious?

  7. Yes, the bond did not pass. Many ignorant people were responsible for that.

    Ridiculous: In the dictionary there a timeline for the “new” high school.

    Inept: In the dictionary there is a group shot of the school board

    Laughingstock: In the dictionary there is a map of Clarke County

    Need I go on?

    Maybe Habitat for Humanity will step in

    Hellllooooo Clake County. This is the 21st century. Did you know?

  8. Bubba D says:

    Maybe we can add on to the new county building and have a high school there 🙂

    I know, more business development so the school board can waste some of that tax money too.

    And there sits a beautiful school off 340 across the border in WV. A prime example of how it’s done. Did they ever consult with our neighbors to learn how to build a high school?

    Nothing has to be THIS complicated. Perhaps what we need is more people on BOTH boards who actually have kids who attend PUBLIC school!

    • Lonnie Bishop says:

      Well…there was quite a bit of wrangling up there in Jefferson County over the need for the new school, how much it’d cost, etc. Ultimately, they floated a $50 million bond referendum and were able to build CWHS and renovate JCHS. JCHS, before CWHS was built, had just over 2,000 students in it. Just as there was wrangling in Warren County before they floated a $55 million bond referendum to build 2 new high schools (have ya seen Skyline HS? It’s nice!), and renovate another school into a proper middle school. Winchester has wrangled over the Handley costs (it’s now topping out near $65 million), and Frederick will soon need to build a 4th high school.

      The process should not be complicated. Where the rub seems to be is – what sort of investment in our kids do we, as a whole community, want to make? It is triesome to see so much frittering away of money from the project. It is a tough call, but an important call to make. I’m glad the BoS seems willing to help with additional funds, and things do seem to be moving forward. But…it’s time to turn some dirt, folks.

      As for putting folks on both boards who have kids attend the public schools – 4 of the current SB have, or had, children who attend CCPS. On the BoS, the % is way lower.

  9. Kenlynne White says:

    I have stopped telling people who live in other counties that I live in Clarke. Makes life a lot easier.

  10. All you folks who like the surrounding counties so much should move there. I tell the supervisors “Don’t build it and they will stay away”

    • I have not seen anyone saying how much they like the other counties. I am hearing people who live in Clarke County because they like the County, but are frustrated with the lack of a new school. “Don’t Build it and they will stay away” doesn’t make any sense. The kids are already here and are in an overcrowded and undersized school with a trailer park.

      I have lived in Clarke County for 23 years and grew up in an area smaller than Clarke County. I enjoy small towns without many people, but when they are already here we need to take responsibility for getting them quality facilities.

    • Lonnie Bishop says:

      Ahhh…but folks didn’t stay away. Battlefield Estates, Darbybrook, The Hermitage, the homes near Boyce…all those folks moved here, and one of the enticements was a great school system. I don’t recall the Planning Commission telling them “No.” Of course, the Planning Commission also didn’t get better proffers to help cover the cost of services, either, so there’s the rub.

      Just because Clarke has always done things a certain way doesn;t mean that it’s been done the right way all this time.

    • I agree. If people are so sick of Clarke County, which isn’t as backwards as some make it out to be, they can just move to Loudon, where everything is perfect(wink). We could use the reduction in traffic anyways.

    • Debacle Watcher says:

      “Don’t build it and they will stay away”. Hah! Wish someone had done something to keep you and yours away – whenever you got here.

  11. Mayor Quinsby says:

    Until the town can competently vote a new school board, town council ect…, we can expect the same old yuckity yucks to stick with their antiquated ways. Someone needs to step to the plate and take control. Why does everything have to go to a [redacted] vote? Can’t the [redacted] Mayor override some of the stupidity? I’m sick of it!

  12. Don’t build it and they will stay away.

    Brilliant. So much for your tax base.

  13. fact checker says:

    So, why is the new town waste plant not being held to the same standards as the new high school when it comes to fire flow as required by state law? Mr. Dalton says that the water is already there at the facility to fight a fire. And exactly how is the water supposed to get from the lagoons to the fire??? The double standard here is jaw dropping!

    Your county tax dollars at work, courtesy of the Town of Berryville.