Warren Junior High elevator to cost more than $250,000

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 21, 2000

Vicksburg Warren School District officials are debating spending more than $250,000 to install an elevator at Warren Central Junior High School to provide access to the school’s different levels for a student who is confined to a motorized wheelchair.

“This is one child now, but we’ve got other children coming along with motorized wheelchairs,” Assistant Superintendent Jimmie Mullins said.

The expense is $100,000 more than an architect’s estimate.

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The student began classes last week and for now is being driven by van from one level to next of the three-story building on Baldwin Ferry Road.

Although other students at the junior high have used wheelchairs, none uses a motorized chair.

The school has a stair-climber system that can move non-motorized chairs, but that system will not work for motorized chairs, Superintendent Donald Oakes said.

“We’re not building an elevator for one student; we’re building it to make the school more accessible,” Oakes said.

The school, about 40 years old, was built on the side of a hill. Although the highest and lowest floors have street-level entrances, two stairways connect to a middle level on the inside.

Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 requires all public and commercial facilities to be designed, constructed or altered to comply with the accessibility standards of the act.

Out of the nearly 9,000 students attending Vicksburg Warren schools this year, two other students, both in elementaries, use motorized wheelchairs, Oakes said. Both new schools, Dana Road Elementary and Sherman Avenue Elementary, which opened last year have elevators that can accommodate the motorized chairs.

The problem facing school board members is the 2000-2001 budget. Funds for the renovation were budgeted in the spending plan based on a $160,000 cost estimate from the project’s architect. But the three bids received last week range from $256,000 to $286,000. The board has asked the lowest bidder for a detailed cost analysis before making a decision.

“We’ve looked for alternatives, but we do not feel there is a cost-effective alternative at this time,” project architect Bill Tompkins said.

Along with wondering where to find the additional $100,000 to fund the project, board members said they are concerned about the gap between the architect’s estimate and the bids.

“Next time we bid projects out, I’d like us to have more than one architect,” school board member John Carlisle said.

“In my opinion that’s just too much money off base,” board President Zelmarine Murphy said during last week’s monthly board meeting.

After a contractor is awarded, installing the elevator could take at least three months, Oakes said.

After getting the cost analysis, the school board expects to meet in a special session to make a decision.