Tom Tolen /

After delays caused by the COVID pandemic and other issues, the 2019 Brighton Area Schools bond issue is ready for completion this year. However, cost overruns will take a whopping $1.3 million out of the contingency fund, according to Assistant Superintendent for Business & Finance Mike Engelter.

As it stood before board approval at last Monday’s meeting, the contingency or “reserve" fund — which is routinely factored into bond projects to cover such things as bids that come in higher than projected, cost increases due to inflation, the pandemic and so forth — stood at about $2.5 million. However, with Monday's approvals, the fund now totals an estimated $1-$1.5 million. Engelter emphasized that the amount of reserve funds remaining is just an estimate at this time, saying, “Contingency dollars are a lot like (a moving target)."

In November of 2019, Brighton Area School District voters approved a $59 million bond issue. Among improvements approved for district schools were a new STEAM, or Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math building at the high school, now fully open, plus STEAM classroom renovations throughout district schools, which are almost completed, a new athletic practice facility, parking lot and roof replacements, new HVAC units at the high school and many other upgrades.

Remaining to be approved — since they have to be re-bid — are drainage projects at Scranton Middle School and Maltby Intermediate School. Actual construction of the Phase 5 projects is to take place this spring and summer, including a major project to build a road connecting Scranton with Lee Road where none currently exists. Soil borings at Scranton have already been taken and, while there could potentially be soil problems along the route, the sample borings indicated a stable soil. As a result, Engelter does not foresee any significant cost overruns stemming from that aspect of the project.

He says the awarding of contracts for Phase 5 that were unanimously approved at the meeting mark the last major aspects of the 2019 bond.

Newly-elected Board Vice President Bill Trombley, who is employed in the construction industry, questioned whether the district should be responsible for the cost overruns, saying not all the sub-contractors did their jobs properly. Trombley said, in his words, “This is where our contingency money is going, instead of trying to help the students, trying to improve their atmosphere in the schools. The professionals didn’t do what they were supposed to do in the first place.” Nonetheless, the board unanimously approved the contract awards.

Major aspects of Phase 5 include $4.4 million for a new parking lot at Scranton and parking upgrades at Spencer and other schools; $418,000 for electrical work; $385,000 for window and door replacement and $266,000 for HVAC replacements.

Since the Board of Education has decided to hold two regular meetings during most months this year, the next meeting will take place on Jan. 23rd in the BECC building at 7pm.