One of the joys of blogging is coming across headlines or stories that make you want to laugh. Here is today's chuckle from The Fort Myers News-Press.
School needs $2.5M for dirt
I laughed very hard on after reading this. Its when you read the article that you start to get annoyed. Our schools need to educate students and their spending money on dirt. What does ecologically sensitive mean? I think that could be applied to almost anything in nature.
Its just absurd how our tax dollars are wasted sometimes.
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Armed with $2.5 million, the Lee County school district could hire 46 more teachers, buy 3,794 new student computers or purchase about 20 acres in the eastern part of the county for a future school site.
Instead, the district will buy dirt.
Tons upon tons of fill dirt.
The South Florida Water Management District is requiring the school district to raise East Lee County High's 46-acre campus by an average of a foot-and-a-half to preserve wetlands and area waterways. That's 269 dump-truck loads of dirt per acre that will be spread across much of the Lehigh Acres property.
School officials estimate the dirt's cost at $2.5 million.
It's not the first time Lee schools have spent a big chunk of money on dirt. In 2004, the district paid $1.7 million to raise a portion of Lexington Middle's property by 6 feet, raising the new south Fort Myers school above the 100-year flood plain.
Another low-lying, 76-acre property in Estero might need a sizable amount of fill dirt before an elementary school opens there in 2010. That site has been in the environmental-permitting stage for more than a year.
East High's elevation change has as much to do with campus flooding as general wetlands preservation issues and waterway protection. Water district spokesman Randy Smith said major developments like schools must have minimal or no impact on wetlands. Once completed, rainwater from East High's campus will drain through adjacent canals into the Orange River, which connects to the ecologically sensitive Caloosahatchee River.
The school project has drawn significant attention from the water district and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which haggled about which agency should have primary control of a drainage ditch splitting the property. The Corps ultimately won jurisdiction.
"We have a responsibility to protect aquatic systems," said Kelly Finch, outreach specialist for Corps regulatory projects.
But all of the permitting and environmental work has delayed site work and construction at East High, originally slated to open its doors in just nine months. The district has sat idle while the agencies sorted out jurisdictional issues.
"It causes us significant time delays," Superintendent James Browder said. "Our issue is timely opening; their issue is, 'This is how we do it.' "
East High's construction delays have hit the school district squarely in the pocketbook. The school's price tag earlier this year was projected at $49.7 million but has since climbed to $58.3 million. A shortage of labor and materials following Hurricane Katrina has driven up construction costs for businesses, homes and schools alike.
Bill Moore, executive director for school support services, said the cost of fill dirt at East High, along with utilities and other site preparatory work, will represent a total of $6.8 million of the $58.3 million construction project.