As summer heats up and public schools prepare to begin Aug. 1, plans to spend $100 million to cool off 1,000 classrooms have been delayed due to what are being called “outrageously” high bids from contractors to install air conditioning.
Rep. Matthew LoPresti has asked the Attorney General to investigate if there is a conspiracy to defraud taxpayers by artificially inflating bids for profit at the expense of school children — who will suffer through yet another unbearably hot summer in stifling classrooms.
“We cannot just wait for another round of bids and hope they are reasonable,” said Rep. Matthew LoPresti. “Classrooms in my district and across the state will soon be too hot for students to learn and teachers to teach. We must find a way to get this project moving forward.
“At the same time, the bids for the work came in so high that it is possible contractors who know the state is hard pressed to get this work done conspired to submit bids much higher than reasonable to make unreasonable profits.”
This past session the Legislature approved more than $100 million to add air conditioning to 1,000 classrooms by the end of the year and Gov. David Ige has been working with the state Department of Education and private companies to get the work done.
The DOE now says the project must be either delayed due to the high bids or far fewer classrooms then expected will be cooled. As an example, the DOE said the bid for one photovoltaic-powered air conditioning project with an estimated cost of $20,000 came in more than $100,000.
The cool schools project now is being pushed back with bidding reopened next year.
“If contractors are gouging the state at a time of great need in our schools and the students have to suffer because of this, the Attorney General must find them and prosecute to the full extent of the law,” LoPresti said. “The public deserves answers as to why bids are coming in suspiciously high and we cannot just sit by and accept this.”
As part of his “Cool Schools 4 Ewa” initiative, LoPresti is reaching out to the public to create a hui of professional volunteers willing and able to contribute to the heat abatement effort by donating their time and labor to help the DOE cool classrooms at realistic and reasonable costs.