The large and at times controversial Horace O'Bryant K-8 school construction project could be one major step closer to completion, following a special meeting of the Monroe County School Board at 4 p.m. today at Marathon Middle/High School.
Board members will vote on whether to approve a pair of final change orders, one that awards a savings split of $309,847.55 to the district, and $206,565.04 to the contractor, Coastal Construction, and one that will close out the financial dealings of the project.
The board will then vote to authorize the final payment from the stimulus grant funds account at Bank of America, which must be zeroed out by Monday.
There will also be a HOB closing report by Bill Sprague, who was hired by the school district to oversee the construction, and the change order process, vis-a-vis Coastal.
"In order for us to qualify for our portion of the savings, we must approve the deductive change order," board Chairman Andy Griffiths said. "It's the only reason we're meeting. This was done to give the board time to review these final change orders."
Should the measures pass, both the district and Coastal will receive the savings laid out in the orders.
"I suspect the board wants to receive their money," Griffiths said. "The reason why we have deductive change orders is so that Coastal is motivated to come in under budget. This does not prevent us from doing a forensic audit after the closeout."
That option is clearly one that board member Ed Davidson, representing District 3, is hoping to see come to pass.
"The chairman recognized at the last board meeting that there was consensus sentiment for a follow-up forensic audit that does ask and answer the question about which savings credits might be disputable," said Davidson, who has been a long-time critic of the handling of the deal's finances. "This is necessary, because the Pribramsky team was only charged with examining documentation and double-checking the contractor's math, and did not examine the question of whether all the contractor's savings credit claims were justified and legitimate."
He was referring to local CPA and certified fraud examiner Steve Pribramsky, who is also a former School Board member.
Davidson promised a lively discussion on the action items.
"For these final change orders I will have my usual questions about whether or not the support documentation is adequate, without which we cannot determine whether or not the 'savings credits' are legitimate. The massive document dump that the developer provided only after we hired Steve Pribramsky's team of CPAs and fraud investigators proves that Coastal had the documents all along - but refused to provide many of them to myself and [Audit and Finance Committee member] Stuart Kessler, even though we were authorized in February by the full school board, to review the HOB project."
Pribramsky, who was hired earlier this spring to provide an "attestation" of the change orders and other financial dealings has so far found no accounting red flags, though he admitted Monday that his team hadn't completed its task yet.
"I can only give assurances on what we have, and we're just not done yet," Pribramsky said.
Coastal Construction does not make statements to the media as a matter of company policy.