Brick school board members voted to completely deplete a capital reserve account Thursday night to pay to plan for projects that have no guarantee of being completed any time soon.
The district awarded about $250,000 in no-bid contracts last month to engineering and architectural firms to create plans for reconstruction of the Veterans Complex parking lot, the Brick Township High School east parking lot reconstruction project, a roof replacement at the Warren H. Wolf Elementary School and a proposed Brick Township High School track rebuilding project.
At previous meetings, there was no mention as to how the planned projects would be funded, leading a resident, George Scott, to rise to the microphone at Thursday’s meeting to question to prudence of spending the planning money now.
“You’re going to spend this money in advance, but according to what [board member] Mr. Barton said, you don’t know which ones you’re going to afford,” Scott told board members. “Why go ahead and spend $250,000 without advertising them first.”
All four of the contracts were so-called “no-bid” contracts that were awarded to pre-selected contractors working for the district. By law, the physical construction work would have to be competitively bid.
James Edwards, the district business administrator, said spending the money on planning services ensures that the district will be able to complete the projects if they are affordable.
“We want these vendors to move ahead with these services, so if not done this summer, they can be done the following summer,” said Edwards.
The district has yet to introduce its final budget for the 2017-18 school year, so it is unknown whether or not any of the planned projects will be included in the spending plan. Officials did not comment, in either direction, as to what the final, proposed budget will include.
The planning services depleted the $240,334 that remained in the capital reserve account, said Edwards, and the remainder of the money to pay for the services would come from elsewhere.
“If we’re going to have anything done for this summer, we have to have the process in place and move on it immediately,” said Barton, defending the vote.