Wednesday, January 27, 2010

We Provide Water for Inmates, but not our Kindergarten Classes

I attended a Portland Public School Board’s Finance, Audit & Operations Committee meeting today. They went through a long discussion about future population at schools and the concepts of how the district might address these issues. Llewellyn is set to recieve a portable for two classrooms to ease overcrowding associated with the booming population of kids in the neighborhood.

I asked whether costs associated with the buildings could be revisited to address what I believed was a need for water in these "temporary" structures. They have water in jail cells, but I guess we can't get one spicket for the kids in their classrooms.

I have not been involved in these matters and don't appreciate the challenges of the PPS budget, but I offered the following ideas for reducing estimated costs. First, I think the costs estimated are high for the current state of the economy. Contractors in the housing sector have been hurt and there are a lot of folks that would work for less than two years ago. Second, the costs for Systems Development Charges from the City may be reduced with a clever argument that schools like Llewellyn have a higher mode split due to the Safe Routes to Schools programs and further encouragement of students riding their bikes. My daughter and our neighbors do just that and this could be another way to communicate the importance of riding bicycles to the school. That might offer $5,000 savings in SDCs, perhaps higher. Finally, by considering the use of architects that are currently out of work (we have several in our neighborhood), the District might find some ways to deliver a better project by having someone vested in the project involved.

The costs associated with running a water line to the portable is low considering that you have to trench to run fiber optic cable to the building from the existing and piping for water could use the same trench. City fees/charges associated with the new water line would be minimal because it is a water line from the existing service.

Perhaps this sort of creative cost savings could address the issue of providing water for the children in the building or be used in other parts of the district to improve accessibility.

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