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Gopher Tortoises Don’t Slow Morganti’s Stuart School Job

Fri October 31, 2003 - Southeast Edition
Cynthia W. Wright

With golden shovels in hand, “designer” hardhats and the Stuart Middle School band playing “Taking Care of Business,” the Martin County School Board broke ground on its new Jensen Beach High School May 5.

A tent shielded the invited audience.  Those in attendance included Parent Teacher Association members, kids’ sports teams, members of the Jensen Beach Chamber of Commerce, schools superintendent Sara Wilcox, other dignitaries from the School Board and county commissioners representing the City of Stuart. 

A construction management firm, The Morganti Group, presented the Martin County Education Foundation with a $5,000 check and the board with a plaque that will be placed inside the new building.

Although construction actually began in December 2002, officials delayed the pomp and circumstance of a formal community ceremony until last minute financial details were completed.

The Treasure Coast is growing rapidly.  There is no pause in sight for necessary new school construction. At just over 25 percent complete, the re-designed structure has been well-received.

The new school’s price tag is $47.8 million.  However, costs could actually be $1.5 million less when tax savings and reimbursements from the government are considered.  Another estimated $5 million will have to be spent on equipment and furniture.

Construction of this facility will save money by building enough room for the current students, instead of erecting two smaller schools to serve them.  It will also cover Florida’s constitutional amendment, approved by voters a year ago, that requires reduced class size –– 25 students per teacher –– by the year 2010.  To accomplish this, students that would have attended older schools a short distance away, will attend Jensen Beach.

On the job site, crews are using a John Deere 225C excavator for trenching, a John Deere 544 G loader for hauling fill, a John Deere 650 G crawler for spreading fill and a Cat scraper for site leveling.

Morganti is also employing a Bomag 172 roller, a Case backhoe and a Lull forklift.

“The only real obstacle we faced [on the project] was the unusually wet weather,” said Danny Salivy, senior project manager of Morganti Constructions, noting challenges on the project.

Although, gopher tortoises almost brought construction to a halt.  An assessment done by E.W. Consultants found that 16 of the state-protected reptiles would have to be relocated.  They were transported to new “digs” with the aid of Morganti Construction.

Most students are excited at the prospect of brand new halls of learning, and expect to choose a mascot and school colors before the doors are opened.

With Martin County, as well as along most of Florida’s coastline, demographers report that another high school will be needed in the next five years.  Refurbishments, re-designs and new construction are certain to be on residents’ minds during the coming decades.  One point on which most agree:   more construction is coming.