The Gulf County School Board began to pick up a few of the cans it’s been kicking down the road for a time, said board Chair Brooke Wooten.

The board will start overhead.

During a special meeting Tuesday, the board addressed major infrastructure needs, starting with approval of a $5.5 million bid to replace the roofs at each high school.

Working through a contracting and insurance process via the Panhandle Area Education Consortium, the board has in place a general contractor and roofing contractor for the jobs.

The work will begin at Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School, roughly 4-6 weeks after all contracts are signed, said a representative of Tremco Roofing and Building Maintenance.

Tremco is the manufacturer of the materials to be used in the roof replacements and will be onsite with the roofing contractor.

That contractor, based on Tuesday’s board action, will be Advanced Roofing, the lowest of three bidders at $5.54 million, nearly $500,000 less than the next lowest bidder.

Roughly four to six weeks after work begins in Port St. Joe, crews will begin to work at Wewahitchka Jr./Sr. High School.

Replacement of both high school roofs will take 6-9 months to complete, said the Tremco rep.

The job is complicated by the schedule that must be adopted while the school year is in session.

There will be some work that can be accomplished during the day, but the bulk will be performed at night, on weekends and during school breaks.

“We are very excited,” said Superintendent of Schools Jim Norton. “Everybody worked hard.

“I am glad we are being made whole through our insurance claims without having to put it on taxpayers.”

Norton noted the district pressed its insurance carrier which initially offered a claim of $1 million for the roof replacements, $750,000 at Port St. Joe and $300,000 in Wewahitchka.

But, the district brought in a structural engineer who certified that damage at Port St. Joe Jr./Sr/ High School constituted more than 40 percent of the roof and in Wewahitchka the damage was above 25 percent.

Under Florida law, school roofs must be replaced if at least 25 percent damaged.

“So our $1 million claim became a $5.5 million claim,” Norton said.

In addition to addressing roofs, the board also approved several other infrastructure repair projects.

The board approved to go out for bid on an emergency basis for a chilling unit for the air conditioning at Port St. Joe Jr./Sr. High School.

The district is renting one for $10,000 per month, after initial start-up costs when the HVAC failed in late August.

Instead, the board approved going out for bids with an estimated replacement cost of $200,000-$250,000 instead of continuing to pay rental costs.

In addition, the board approved Deeson A/C and Heating to perform the replacement of the air conditioning in the gym at Port St. Joe Elementary School at a cost of $43,750 (low bidder).

Maintenance Director Woody Borders cautioned board members that the air conditioning unit would have to be manufactured from scratch by Carrier and would likely not be in place for 13 weeks from the date of order.

The board also approved a contract with Fisher Construction (lone bidder) to replace the awning at the Wewahitchka Elementary School bus drop-off/pick-up location at a cost of $54,925.

“We will have really nice facilities if we pull all this off,” Norton said.

Wooten said days like Tuesday, a special meeting called to address the needs at aging buildings, should have been expected even before Hurricane Michael.

“With the age of the schools we need to start replacing and pick up some of the cans we’ve been kicking,” Wooten said. “Things wear out their life.”