OTTUMWA — It's back to the drawing board after bids for a new school office were more than expected.
"We were disappointed," said Ottumwa Superintendent Davis Eidahl. "Costs came in about 40 percent higher than the estimate."
The surprise was announced at Monday's school board meeting. At just under a million dollars, the original $950,000 estimate hardly seemed comparable to the tens of millions spent to build Liberty, to renovate Douma and to add a wing at Evans. But tack $300,000 onto the $950,000, and a $1.25 million office is more than the superintendent is comfortable asking the board to approve.
"I'm going to recommend we table [any vote] until we've had a chance to go back to the architects and find out where [that extra cost] is coming from," Eidahl said.
"Have we used these [architects] before?" asked school board member David Weilbrenner.
The district has used Frevert-Ramsey-Kobes of West Des Moines for Liberty, for Douma and for Evans. Indian Hills used them to design the Rural Health Education Center at their Ottumwa Campus. These guys are good, Eidahl said.
Weilbrenner asked if the design firm is always that far off target? The superintendent told him they're usually much closer; it may be that there's more room for error or bid fluctuations when it comes to guessing what contractors will ask for a smaller project.
One citizen wondered if perhaps the plans were too extravagant. Ed McDowell of Ottumwa addressed district leaders during the public hearing portion regarding the project Monday.
"I don't begrudge anyone a nice place to work," said McDowell. "But what's wrong with [this] current building? You've vacated a number of buildings on the south side. Have you considered any of them?"
McDowell said like many residents, his property taxes went up last year. And residents do watch to see how the district spends taxpayer funds.