Frederick County Public Schools officials are no longer seeking compensation from the city of Frederick for added expenses of more than $136,000 rung up during construction of the new Butterfly Ridge Elementary School after meeting with public works staff members earlier this month.
Zack Kershner, the city’s director of public works, said via email on Sept. 20 that he and several employees met with FCPS staff members to discuss allegations that drawings city officials provided during construction of the school resulted in the added costs.
He said staff members provided data — a combination of flown topography and field run survey work gathered for city officials to develop a conceptual design of the future Westside Regional Park — to FCPS officials at their request in August 2014.
“The City performed the survey work for the benefit of the City,” Kershner’s email said. “FCPS chose to utilize the data. The data was provided as a courtesy.”
He added that the members of his staff explained those facts at the meeting with FCPS staff members in mid-September.
“While the City was under no obligation to provide the data and made no warranty as to its accuracy, City staff have reviewed the data provided and have found it to be correct and accurate for its intended use by the City,” the email concluded.
FCPS Chief Operating Officer Paul Lebo confirmed that the meeting took place and corroborated Kershner’s assessment of the discussion via email on Friday. He said the meeting was “very productive and focused on lessons learned from this project and ways to partner together moving forward.”
“As Mr. Kershner indicated, the data provided by the City met their needs and requirements,” Lebo’s email said. “In our joint meeting, we agreed it was not sufficient for the intended purpose of FCPS and we would independently verify this type of data in the future. Both teams are committed to working together in a collaborative manner and I appreciate the opportunity to meet with them.”
The staff meeting was held in response to a discussion at a Sept. 5 workshop between members of the Frederick County Board of Education, the County Council, and FCPS officials. No city officials or staff representatives were present at the workshop.
In the meeting, Lebo explained details of a $136,733 change order to fix problems with flooding and water pooling on Butterfly Lane that he attributed to inaccurate information from the city. Members of the Board of Education asked the County Council for support to solicit the city for reimbursement of the funds, and council members agreed to discuss the matter at a meeting that was originally set for the end of this month with the mayor and Board of Aldermen.
Instead, city officials took it upon themselves to look into the matter, discussed it internally with the mayor, and then set up the meeting with FCPS staff members to address it.
Mayor Michael O’Connor said he never saw any evidence that city staff had done anything wrong from the reports he received from Kershner and his employees. He and Kershner also both said they did not receive any official requests from anyone with the county, Board of Education or FCPS to cover the added costs.
“Unless someone wants to push it more, I’m inclined to say it’s not an issue,” O’Connor said last week.
School board President Brad Young, who expressed concerns about the added costs in the Sept. 5 workshop, said on Monday that he believes the issue was solved at the staff meeting.
“I am happy our staff and the city staff have gotten together and talked about it and hopefully don’t have issues that happen like that in the future,” he said. “I think there were some communication issues and I am happy our staff got together and there are no issues. I think everybody is OK with where we’re at now.”
Young said the school system has already paid the extra cost for the change order and will not seek reimbursement from the city.
Butterfly Lane is the main road that runs alongside the school, which is on formerly city-owned property on the city’s west side. The surrounding land is slated for development as the multi-use recreational Westside Regional Park. The school opened to students for the first time this year, and officials held a ribbon-cutting on Monday.