- Associated Press - Thursday, November 26, 2015

BURLEY, Idaho (AP) - Underestimated costs mean a $37 million construction bond approved by voters last spring is $15 million below the amount needed, Cassia County School District officials said.

The shortfall was announced Tuesday involving proposed projects in Burley and Declo that include new school construction and other improvements across the district.

The district blamed architect Hal Jensen of Pocatello, who supplied cost estimates.

“I had some elements that were underestimated,” Jensen told The Times-News (https://bit.ly/1OgOcUt). “I feel sick.”

District officials said options include scaling back plans or asking voters to approve more bond money. Voters approved the $37 million bond in March after rejecting it three previous times.

“I’m a really simple guy,” said Darrin Moon, a member of a citizens committee that worked with Jensen to draw up cost estimates for the building projects. “You tell the truth and go ask for more money.”

Officials said the shortage was discovered after the district hired a new architect who discussed plans with a construction management team hired for the project.

“We’re not sitting on this,” said district spokeswoman Debbie Critchfield, describing the situation as devastating. “We’re trying to be transparent and figure out what to do.”

Board Chairman Ryan Cranney said the district didn’t have the $400,000 for blueprints before passing the bond, so conceptual drawings were used.

The costs were based on a general elementary school size, Cranney said, noting the amount increased when specifics were factored in.

He said the entire remodeling budget for Mountain View Elementary School was used up by the heating and air conditioning system.

Critchfield said proposed new elementary schools in Declo and Burley were underestimated by 30 to 40 percent.

“I don’t think there was any attempt by (Jensen) to mislead the district,” Critchfield said. “We just got very poor advice.”

Officials said construction already under way on schools in Malta and Oakley likely won’t be affected.

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Information from: The Times-News, https://www.magicvalley.com

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