By Errol Castens/NEMS Daily Journal
OXFORD – The Oxford School Board voted Monday to restart the bidding on construction of its new high school. The process was interrupted when initial bids came in at several million dollars over the $30 million estimate.
“We have worked every possible way that we could to try to make the bids work and have something to award,” said Superintendent Brian Harvey. According to the state Attorney General’s Office, he added, the district cannot negotiate to try to lower the initial bids.
“The only thing this body can do is to reject all the bids and proceed forward,” he said. “The first thing is to alter the contract.”
Board members will meet May 3 to configure a new bid package. While some design changes aimed at trimming costs are anticipated, board president Buddy Chain said most of a 10- to 12-member committee has already been formed to oversee private-sector fundraising that could supplement the $34 million budget available.
“We were advised by the auditor’s office that the board did not need to be involved in the fundraising,” said School Board Attorney Mary Ann Connell.
Developer Kenny Farrell urged school officials and residents to support a proposal by principals in the Oxford Commons planned urban development, in which the new high school site is located.
Under the proposal, if Baptist Memorial Health Care Corp. were to locate its hospital in Oxford Commons, landowners would donate the hospital property’s price to the district, acknowledging that the remaining land would greatly increase in value.
Baptist has announced it will locate west of the existing hospital, two miles from Oxford Commons.
“It’s our view that that deal’s not done,” Farrell said. “I would encourage you to keep an open mind. … I’ve got to believe there are other people who recognize the opportunity.”