RVC construction costs extra $6.3 million

n Chapdelaine’s change orders reportedly source of extra charges

Three construction projects at Rock Valley College (RVC) are expected to cost at least $6.3 million more than previously reported by RVC President Roland Chapdelaine. Numerous sources attribute most, if not all of the extra costs, to the large number of change orders mandated by Chapdelaine.

Specifically, during the past several years, Chapdelaine’s administration repeatedly reported the cost of replacing the Starlight Theater was $8 million. However, a confidential draft document by Sam Overton, RVC’s chief financial officer, now estimates the total cost for the Starlight Theater construction was at least $11.6 million.

Sources informed The Rock River Times last winter the cost of the theater was between $9 million and $18 million. The Rock River Times’ sources still believe the theater’s construction cost was much higher—perhaps as high as $18 million.

However, a member of the RVC Board of Trustees said: “I have the great confidence in Overton’s figures. If he said he was 98 percent sure of the figures, I think he would quit his job rather than misreport them.”

As recently as Aug. 24, the Rockford Register Star reported in its editorial that the cost of Starlight Theater was $8 million. One of the theater’s features is a fingerprint recognition security system to open and close the origami-type roof over the outdoor seating.

The July 2, 2002, Rockford Register Star reported the renovation of RVC’s Student Center was between $3-$4 million. In May of this year, The Rock River Times’ sources estimated remodeling the Student Center would cost $4.6 million. However, sources now estimate the cost for renovating the student center at $6 million—about twice what Chapdelaine reported just two years ago.

The remodeled Student Center reportedly will be fitted with tens of thousands of dollars worth of plasma televisions at the same time staff are being permanently laid off and the college has spent $7.4 million more than it generated in the past five years during Chapdelaine’s six-year tenure.

Similar to the cost overruns in Starlight Theater and Student Center, the Support Services Building that was supposed to have cost $5.6 million now is reported to have cost $6.9 million, according to the same RVC document.

Chris Johnson, RVC Board of Trustees chairman, acknowledged the new cost figures were correct for the Starlight Theater, Support Services Building and Student Center.

Sources said much, if not all, of the extra costs can be attributed to Chapdelaine’s numerous changes in plans that increased the projects’ costs. The sources said there were a large number of change orders for all the construction projects. Generally, the greater number and type of change orders for a project translates into higher costs.

The sources’ assertion of Chapdelaine’s large number of change orders is reportedly supported by a video that was shown at the June gala opening of the new Bengt Sjostrom/Starlight Theater. In the video, attendees of the theater’s opening said Joel Sjostrom, nephew of the late Bengt Sjostrom and president of construction company Sjostrom and Sons, Inc., implied the number of change orders was unusual.

The extra construction costs are reportedly being paid by some of the $27.5 million RVC borrowed for construction projects in June 2002. Chapdelaine previously persuaded the board to sell $15.5 million in non-voter-approved bonds in 1999 and $18.8 million in 2000, for construction projects.

As a result of the non-voter-approved bond sales in 1999, 2000 and 2002, the college’s total long-term debt is $61.8 million. RVC was able to sell the construction bonds because Ogle County has not placed the issue of tax caps on the ballot for voter approval or disapproval.

RVC’s taxing district covers all of Winnebago and Boone counties and portions of Ogle, DeKalb, McHenry and Stephenson counties. Tax caps limit taxing bodies’ ability to collect money faster than the rate of inflation.

Although Winnebago County has a tax cap and the other counties RVC serves have placed the tax cap issue on the ballot for voters, Ogle County has not, Johnson said. As a result, state law allows RVC to sell bonds without a voter-approved referendum.

Despite numerous requests for interviews and submission of questions in writing, Chapdelaine has refused to give answers to any questions from The Rock River Times.

The board vote to renew Chapdelaine’s contract is expected Oct. 28, at the next business meeting of the RVC Board of Trustees.

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