Reports show rebuilding TA brown cost effective for AISD; critics skeptical

T.A. Brown Elementary School has a new look and location this school year after its doors were closed last fall. (CBS Austin)

T.A. Brown Elementary School has a new look and location this school year after its doors were closed last fall. On August 21st, students will fill 13 temporary mobile classrooms beside Barrington Elementary School.

"We are still a community. The building does not define us," says Principal Victoria Sharp.

Now, Austin ISD is asking taxpayers to approve a $1 billion bond package with $30.8 million going towards tearing down the original T.A. Brown and building a new one.

However, former city council member and president of the Travis County Taxpayers Union, Don Zimmerman had his doubts since AISD first announced the bond proposal.

Zimmerman has claimed the district over-exaggerated estimates for a new building and did not adequately investigate the condition of the school.

"The purpose of all this is to justify spending money. It's abundantly clear," says Zimmerman.

A series of emails between an engineering firm investigating the building and AISD officials released Wednesday reveal project managers estimated the "hard" cost (not including costs of design, management, etc) of repairing the school at $19.5 million. Hard costs of rebuilding the school completely was an estimated $22.8 million.

"Replacement is a more cost effective option to modernize Brown ES," says AECOM Project Manager Drew Johnson.

Johnson explains that the final price tag of $30.8 million comes from additional estimated costs for design, contingency, modernization, etc.

Don Zimmerman says he believes these estimates are incorrect, and has claimed AISD did not thoroughly examine the structure.

District officials tell CBS Austin that the original analysis of the building in October 2016 included a recommendation for further testing. However, the district determined after subsequent visits, additional tests were not needed, and they relied on visual observation that the structure was not up to code.

Zimmerman says he will continue to investigate the reason behind AISD's decision to tear down the building, rather than using tax payer dollars to make repairs.

For T.A. Brown Principal Victoria Sharp, she couldn't be more excited for the possibility of a new school.

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