WACO, Texas (AP) — Rebuilding schools damaged by a deadly fertilizer plant explosion in West will cost about half of what officials expected immediately after the blast.
West Superintendent Marty Crawford told the Waco Tribune-Herald (http://bit.ly/1cyNaxH ) that the district's construction manager now estimates a rebuild cost of about $50 to $60 million. Officials first said they thought it would take as much as $117 million.
"The reason it was lower is because of the speed at which we had to put that first number together," Crawford told the newspaper. "We knew it would come down, but not as significantly as it did."
The April 17 blast at West Fertilizer sent debris flying for blocks and forced the demolition of dozens of buildings. It blew out the windows and ceilings in the intermediate school next door, and caved in part of the high school and middle school a short walk away.
Fifteen people died in the blast, including 12 people trying to help put out an initial fire.
After finishing the year in a neighboring school district, hundreds of West's older students are attending classes in a campus of portable buildings. West Elementary School was largely unharmed in the blast.
Officials hope to have West's new high school and middle school finished by January 2016.
The school district and its insurer, Trident and the Argo Group, still are negotiating over its payout. West initially submitted a proof of loss of about $53 million, on a policy worth about $60 million. Its insurer originally offered about $25 million.
Federal aid also is expected to help pay for the rebuilding, though a final amount has not yet been determined, Crawford said.
The school district has not filed a lawsuit against West Fertilizer — which carried an insurance policy of just $1 million — or the company that produced the ammonium nitrate that ignited in the blast, as many others have.
"We haven't seen a need to go after anyone, as far as litigation goes," Crawford said. "We're staying out of that fray."
Information from: Waco Tribune-Herald, http://www.wacotrib.com