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The buck stops where?

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The local public school board would do well to adopt former U.S President Harry S. Truman’s bold pledge that “the buck stops here.”

At the very least, the board should give the impression that somebody is in charge of the “multi-use” project at Westfort. Right now, the only one people are getting is that nobody knows exactly what is going on out there.

And in the meantime, the cost continues to soar.

The “multi-use” project has been jinxed right from the start. First, previous boards were hopelessly split over it, with trustees more concerned about in-fighting and politicking than building a good school. Then having to meet a ministry-imposed deadline in 1993 created a mad rush that prompted then board chairman Gord McBride to say, “I don’t think we had adequate time to do this properly.”

There’s more. A moratorium imposed by the new Harris government in 1995 pushed back construction, as did a couple of strikes this year. Even the Red River flood of last year has been blamed for some of the delays and rising costs!

But people are sick of the excuses. They’re sick of the setbacks, and they’re certainly sick of wondering what the price tag will be next week or next month. It’s high time for a clear explanation why the high school portion of the project has zoomed from $13 million to almost $18 million (and that’s not to mention the auditorium), and what is being doing to eliminate any more surprise increases.

It’s also time for the board to accept responsibility for the mess out there, or go after those who led it—and all the rest of us—down the proverbial garden path. After all, it was the ministry which initially said the school portion could be built for around $13.2 million, and an independent study dated Jan. 19, 1996 agreed it could be done for $13.1 million (plus or minus a 10 percent contingency), which included new additions, renovating Westfort, fees, furnishings, and PST.

So what went wrong?

Expressing reluctance over having to pay $700,000 in additional costs for the project, as trustees did last night, isn’t good enough. Real answers are needed—and it had better start with next Wednesday’s meeting between the three project partners (the school board, town, and Confederation College), the construction manager (Daoust Construction), and the architect (C.A. Ventin).

The time for passing the buck is long gone.

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