Local contractor Rudolph/Libbe Inc. got the contract to clean up the extensive tornado damage at Lake Local Schools.
The school board voted 4-0 last week to approve a contract that does not have a ceiling on the cost.
Board member Brad Delventhal abstained because he is a Rudolph/Libbe employee.
The school board had passed a resolution of urgent necessity that allowed it to bypass the competitive bidding process that's typically required for awarding taxpayer-funded contracts.
Damage to Lake High School from storms the first weekend of June was so severe that the district has arranged to hold next year's high school classes at facilities owned by Owens Community College.
But district leaders hope to have the elementary school and middle school open for the start of the 2010-2011 school year on Aug. 24.
Treasurer Jeff Carpenter said the district was "blessed" to have Rudolph/Libbe ready to start work as soon as possible.
"They're located right here in our school district," Mr. Carpenter said. "They're probably the only contractor large enough and capable enough of handling a disaster of this size."
Gary Haas, Rudolph/Libbe vice president, confirmed that the company is committed to the job and to the school district at large.
"Our office is four miles from the school site, we are one of the largest taxpayers in Lake Township, and between our employees we have over forty families in the district," Mr. Haas said. "We have a lot of tradition there with the school district."
"They were on site within three hours of the tornado hitting," Mr. Carpenter said. "Thank God they're here."
Plans call for replacing the elementary and middle school roofs and repairing many windows, doors, carpets, and ceilings.
But both Mr. Carpenter and Mr. Haas said they were certain that the rebuilding process would be far enough along that those schools could open as planned in August.
The overall timeline for construction, they said, depends whether the high school is razed or the approximately 30 percent of its structure that builders estimate could be maintained is preserved.
That decision is to be made in July.
One reason for optimism is the football field, which initially was so deeply embedded with debris that three inches of soil was excavated to remove it.
Instead of attempting to reseed it, the district has decided to cover the football field with synthetic turf.
"That's a major victory for the school," Mr. Carpenter said. "That alone guarantees that the first home football game will be played here."
As for how much the whole enterprise will cost, Mr. Carpenter said he could not estimate before he knew the full details of the construction, but that he was not looking forward to hearing the grand total.
"It's massive," Mr. Carpenter said. "You're probably looking at $30 million."
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