The fire-flow issue that has plagued the construction process for the new high school may have reached a turning point. On Tuesday night the Berryville Town Council addressed the issue in its monthly session and was presented with a framework agreement that could satisfy requirements and assuage the fears of the Town and the Clarke County School Board. Town Manager Keith Dalton presented a document for consideration that outlined nine conditions for creating a framework that will allow the process to move forward. The conditions are:
- The Town’s attorney will draft an agreement.
- Agreement will provide that the Town will manage all aspects of the project
- Agreement must be approved by both the Town Council and the School Board before May 12, 2010.
- Agreement shall establish a cost sharing ratio of 50% Town responsibility and 50% School Board responsibility. The school share shall be paid to the town within 15 days of request and must be received prior to the approval of a contract for the project.
- Agreement shall establish a maximum contribution of $250,000 for each party and establish a means by which the agreement may be renegotiated or amended should the cost of the project exceed $500,000.
- Agreement shall contain acknowledgement by School Board that the approved PHRA Plan, as amended meets their needs and acknowledgement by the Town that the plan meets applicable fire flow requirements of the Town.
- Agreement shall establish a requirement that substantial completion for the project be reached within18 months of the date of the final approval of the agreement.
- Town will explore the possibility of establishing an agreement that would provide for pro-rata payments by developers of property within the High Pressure Zone that benefit from the project. Such an agreement would provide for disbursement of 50% of any said payments to the Clarke County School Board.
- Town Council directed the town staff to proceed with negotiations under this framework and authorized the expenditure of up to $10,000 to finalize plans and prepare bid documents (making clear that the monies expended in this effort shall be included in project costs). Staff will report back to the Town Council with a draft agreement.
The document is an attempt to pull together all the areas of the project that could create disagreements and wrap them into an overarching agreement that would allow the project to proceed.
“It’s a way for us to move forward,” said Dalton.
School board Chairman Robina Bouffault commented after reviewing the document, “We are pleased that the Town Council has agreed, at least in concept, to our offer of January 11th for this fire-flow matter. Having just received the “framework” presented by the Town Manager to the Council last night, the school board will need to wait and see what kind of a legal draft agreement their attorney presents to us, however at first blush, most of the items appear reasonable.”
The primary split between the town and the School Board still appears to be money. The School Board offered the town $200,000 for their portion of the project in the hope of moving it through the council. This figure exceeds the price that the school board would need to pay were they to simply cover the requirements of the new building. Bids received by the School Board that meet all code requirements for the current site have all come in well below the $200K offered to the town. The town however, is requiring the school to contribute $250,000 to the project. They have estimated that the project will cost $500,000. Final agreement on the framework will require that both parties arrive at some agreement on proposal numbers in order to establish the project’s final budget.
To proceed with this agreement the town manger asked the council to approve the allocation of $10,000 to develop the final document. Town Recorder Jay Arnold motioned to approve and the council voted unanimously to support the framework and fund its development.
Hope springs eternal…