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Berea school board questions $90,000 variance above initial estimate for kitchen upgrade

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DSCN6774.JPG>Berea school board members approved a $230,000 contract for new kitchen equipment at their April 16 meeting.File photo 

BEREA, Ohio -- The Berea Board of Education has rejected a bid for kitchen equipment for the district's middle-level complex that was $90,000 more than the original $150,000 estimate.

That action was just one of several that occurred at the April 16 board meeting in regard to the kitchen upgrade project.

Since the board's last meeting in mid-March, the district architect re-estimated the project at $240,000, and new bids were solicited. As a result, board members approved a new $230,425 bid on April 16 and awarded the contract to Breckenridge Kitchen Equipment and Design, which had submitted a $241,000 bid the first time around.

Prior to the vote, however, school board Vice President Cori Farris questioned the $90,000 variance between the original estimate and the second, much higher projected cost.

"Where was the disconnect on the first estimate?" she asked Assistant Superintendent Jeff Grosse. "From the outside, it looks to me like the bid came in high, so we're just going to adjust the estimate. Instead of the contractors adjusting their bid for our expectations, we're adjusting our estimate for the contractor's bid."

Grosse said the architect based the second estimate on post-bid discussions held with initial prospective bidders to discern their reasons for either not offering a bid or overbidding. He also said the architect used figures from "a lot of other projects he's done within the district and for other districts."

The quick turnaround by first rejecting and then immediately approving a bid at the same board meeting was an anomaly and based solely on timing, Grosse added.

"We really needed to get the bids in in order to have this kitchen ready at Middlebrook Education Center for the start of the school year," he explained, adding that there are 45 items in the bid package, including walk-in coolers and steamers. "Typically, we wouldn't put something back to back."

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