Three numbers are emerging vital to the success of the schoobrary.

There’s $32.5 million, the money private donors need to raise in the next 18 months or else taxpayers could be left holding the bag.

There’s six, the number of City Council votes the project needs — and one more than boosters currently have — to approve construction without complication.

And then, there’s the number that’s been here for five years now: $184.9 million.

That’s the schoobrary’s price tag, and supporters have done everything they could to keep it there.

Back in April, the city’s contractor told me the project would have been “dead on arrival” if the cost would have been any more than $184.9 million, the estimate the city had received in 2005. Still, the contractor told me the project hadn’t undergone any revisions since.

Wednesday’s City Council committee hearing on the schoobrary revealed that the city now has made some revisions. It cut about $2.8 million of costs on the project, some from using less expensive materials.

“All the components that were in the original package are still there, they’re just different,” Darren Greenhalgh, the city’s deputy director of engineering and capital projects, told the committee.

Greenhalgh went on to detail some of the changes. Cheaper benches, less expensive floor tile for some areas.

After the meeting, the city gave me the whole list.

Five years ago, the city cut millions from the project by choosing cheaper ceiling panels and flooring. A great euphemism describes this process: “value engineering.” (We have schoobrary value engineering background here.)

Less expensive materials aren’t the only way the city has kept the project’s cost at $184.9 million.

Construction contingencies are typical amounts included in project budgets in case the project winds up costing more than originally thought. The city’s contingency for the schoobrary is $3.7 million.

Asked by City Councilwoman Donna Frye during the meeting how the city arrived at that number, Greenhalgh was blunt.

“It was dependent upon keeping the budget at $184.9 (million),” he said to laughs from the crowd.


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