SWEENY — School district leaders believe smaller will be better when it comes to the firm that will shepherd its $28 million bond program.

Sweeny ISD trustees named Stewart Builders its top choice to serve as contract manager at risk during its meeting Tuesday night. The company was one of four to seek the designation, Super- intendent Tory Hill said at the meeting.

“We chose Stewart because they’re a smaller firm that we felt personalizes the approach to meet client needs,” Hill said.

The district will enter into negotiations with Stewart, and if they are unable to reach an agreement, the board ranked Webber LLC as its second choice and Drymalla Construction its third.

A group of 17 residents will oversee the bond’s implementation, providing community accountability for how the money is spent, Hill said. The 2019 Bond Oversight Committee is expected to meet three times in its first year to hear construction updates, and review the project timeline and financial reports. Members then will provide reports to the Sweeny ISD board, Hill said.

Seven of the committee’s members will be chosen by the board, seven by Sweeny ISD administration and three from the finance and operations committee. Preliminary meeting dates are Oct. 10, Jan. 23 and April 23, and all will be open to the public Hill said.

Voters overwhelmingly approved the district’s bond request May 4. The bond will pour $7.5 million into career and technology program improvements alone. The remaining money will provide major infrastructure repairs to facilities while creating more safety, health and wellness programs.

Campus improvements will be made over the next five years and touch all three schools. The multimillion-dollar projects can be accomplished without raising Sweeny ISD tax rates, school district officials said.

The district will be able to move quickly on construction, using $650,000 in maintenance bond funds available for immediate use, Hill said. If additional funds are needed before money from the bond issue is received, the district will cover the costs and reimburse itself, the board decided Tuesday.

The district hopes to start construction on the $28 million bond project this summer but an exact start date has yet to be determined, Hill said.

Before bond work begins, the district will spend $298,300 to replace the roof at Sweeny Junior High and modernize the high school elevator, which will return it to work order. The elevator’s $93,000 cost will be covered through a ThyssenKrupp engineering firm program.

Adding to school improvements are two wall-mounted scoreboards for the high school gym being donated by the Education Foundation, a nonprofit seeking to improve education across the United States, according to the meeting presentation. The board accepted the donation worth $26,930, but declined a decorative centerpiece worth $6,900, Hill said.

“There’s a better way to spend $6,900 than on a piece of plastic,” Board President Earl Mathis said at the meeting.

Elizabeth Parrish is a reporter for The Facts. Contact her at 979-237-0149.

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