Columbia County's school board better have its fingers crossed.
Superior Court Judge Neal Dickert is scheduled to rule Monday morning on whether to allow McKnight Construction to start building the new Evans Middle School.
Time, as they say, is of the essence. And time is money, too.
The math is pretty simple: McKnight built Greenbrier Middle School, which has the same design as the new Evans Middle, and that job took 18 months to complete. But June 2006, when school officials want the keys to the new Evans Middle campus, is just 14 months away.
That means every delay of an already impossibly tight schedule makes it less likely the new school will be finished on time. And unless Judge Dickert lets McKnight go ahead despite a challenge to their $11.26 million bid by contractor R.D. Brown, the delays could stall construction for the foreseeable future.
While it's easy to blame Brown for shutting down the project, the company makes a good case that the school board gave McKnight an unfair advantage by allowing them extra time after bids were opened to turn in a required list of subcontractors.
The school board stood to save $59,000 by waiving their own "technicality," but the cost of the suit and delays to the project could become far more expensive.
It's fair to say none of this would have happened if the school board had stuck to the recommendation of its architect by disqualifying McKnight and giving the bid to R.D. Brown. At the very least, perhaps they'll learn a lesson to apply the next time they're thinking about changing the rules as they go along.
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