The Houston school board approved a settlement agreement last week with its architect that will allow the district to move forward with new construction and improvements.

Superintendent Scott Dill said the dispute with Sapp Design Associates Architects P.C. of Springfield was related to a 2009 bond issue that failed, not the one voters overwhelmingly approved in April. That measure, written before Dill became superintendent, called for the construction of a new high school.

“Normally, the understanding is if the bond issue doesn’t pass, the district does not pay,” Dill said. “That was the assumption we made when we began the new bond issue. We assumed it was a clean slate, and they had other ideas. When we passed the bond issue, they presented us a bill for work done. That’s the point we had a concern.”

At a special meeting last Thursday, the board agreed on the settlement with a 4-0 vote. Three board members were absent.

After confirming with legal counsel, the district settled with SDA for $27,843.75.

“I can with great confidence say the time was worth it as far as the financial impact on the district,” Dill said.

The disagreement, which arose in May, halted roof repairs as well as construction of a new library and connecting the current middle and high school buildings. Dill said he is traveling to Springfield on Thursday to “clear the table and ensure we move forward as quickly as possible.” He said the school board’s goal is to complete as much as possible before the beginning of the 2014-’15 school year.

Dill said the biggest obstacle for construction and improvements is the amount of time remaining before cold weather arrives. He has spoken with other districts whose crews work in the evenings when classes dismiss. Dill said that could be an option for Houston.

The legal issues raise the question why the Houston School District continues to work with SDA.

“The very easy, quick answer is they’ve already done a significant amount of work on design and preconstruction documents for the current project,” Dill said. “If we were to change course, we would have to pay them for the work they’ve done and pay someone else to do it again. It would be a misuse of taxpayer dollars.

“We’re very pleased to be working with them because they build beautiful buildings. They are very highly regarded in their field. The recent legal entanglements are unfortunately the price of doing business sometimes.”

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