Hey, the School Board's Going Broke -- How About a $7 Million Stadium?

Dozens of teachers have been laid off, the capital budget is in shambles, parents and teachers are being asked to subsidize educational materials, and school repair work is being neglected because there's no money.

But thank goodness there's money to renovate a high school football stadium for about $7 million. The Broward County School Board is expected to vote on October 6 to approve a $6,890,000 contract with Balfour Beatty Construction to renovate the athletic grounds at Blanche Ely High School in Pompano Beach.

Yeah, they're going to demolish everything -- the existing stadium, the track, the baseball diamond, basketball and tennis courts, even the football field itself -- and build it anew, complete with a state-of-the-art polyurethane track. (Perhaps most egregious, from a football purist's view, it appears the new gridiron will include

artificial turf.)

But here's the kicker: The Qualification Selection Evaluation Committee -- also known as a Q-SEC -- overlooked significantly lower bids to choose Balfour Beatty. For instance, D. Stephenson Construction, which is owned by Hall of Fame Dolphin Dwight Stephenson, bid about $5.2 million for the job. Another company on the short list, MBR Construction, bid $5.5 million. W.G. Mills said it could do it for $5.9 million. In fact, only one company had a higher bid than Balfour Beatty, Recreation Design & Construction, which put in a $6.9 million bid. 

That means the School Board, at a time of unparalleled economic hardship, decided to pay about $1.5 million over the low bid. Hell, throw that out and you're talking $1.2 million over the second-lowest bidder. 

Look, Blanche Ely deserves a good football field. In better times, this wouldn't be an issue (except maybe for that artificial turf). But right now, it's an extravagance that taxpayers can't afford -- and a bloated one at that.