an artist's rendering of a building with a car parked in front of it
An architect’s rendering shows the proposed concession and restroom building at the Rex Weech Field baseball complex. CONTRIBUTED

The school board this month pressed pause on a $4 million price increase that would have put the cost of Key West High School’s new football stadium and baseball complex at nearly $24 million.

In March, the board had expected to approve a $2 million change order for a new restroom and concession building, but instead was hit with a $4 million spike in the price.

Postponing their decision until the April 9 meeting in Key West, the board ultimately voted 3-2 to deny the change order, citing various concerns about the lack of specificity in the initial estimates submitted by Ajax Building Co., which has built several Monroe County schools and facilities. 

“Maybe they’re just getting too comfortable with us,” board member John Dick said at the meeting.

Board chair Mindy Conn added, “I’m not comfortable saying we’re going to rubber-stamp a $4 million project.”

She questioned Pat Lefere, the school district’s director of planning and operations, about who was in charge of approving, line by line, cost estimates for multimillion-dollar construction projects.

“I’m assuming we have someone whose job it is to notice that estimates don’t include things like site work, concrete and masonry,” said Conn, who has butted heads with Lefere over aspects of the stadium design.

Lefere said his team is charged with reviewing such estimates, but added that Ajax had not submitted a detailed estimate that would have enabled Lefere’s team to notice the omissions until the design phase was already 75% complete.

Board member Darren Horan, who joined Conn and Dick in denying the change order, has suggested that the district rebid the portion of the project that Ajax is saying would cost $4 million.

“I think it’d be the best bang for our buck to see if someone else can come in and we can see what they can do for $4 million or less,” Horan said.

With the denial of the change order, work will proceed at the stadium, but the future of the new concession and restroom building on the baseball side of the complex remains up in the air for now.

Mandy Miles
Mandy Miles drops stuff, breaks things and falls down more than any adult should. An award-winning writer, reporter and columnist, she's been stringing words together in Key West since 1998. "Local news is crucial," she says. "It informs and connects a community. It prompts conversation. It gets people involved, holds people accountable. The Keys Weekly takes its responsibility seriously. Our owners are raising families in Key West & Marathon. Our writers live in the communities we cover - Key West, Marathon & the Upper Keys. We respect our readers. We question our leaders. We believe in the Florida Keys community. And we like to have a good time." Mandy's married to a saintly — and handy — fishing captain, and can't imagine living anywhere else.