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Councilmembers ate bacon at their monthly breakfast last week, but the real meat on the menu was beef. Beef, that is, with the Department of General Services over the continuing costs of school modernization.

LL forgives you for checking the date. The Council has been cranky about school costs since at least the Adrian Fenty era, when the hard-charging mayor with the throbbing vein in his head told renovations boss Allen Lew to hurry up and fix the schools.

“Fenty said to him, ‘Build them and build them fast, I don’t care what it costs,’” Ward 3 Councilmember Mary Cheh says.

Now, the Council’s discontent has landed with Mayor Muriel Bowser and rising school costs under her administration. Consider the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, where a $139 million remodel now needs an additional $39 million. Or Roosevelt High School, the site of a $15 million remodel that has exploded to more than $125 million. On July 8, Cheh and At-Large Councilmember David Grosso will hold a joint committee hearing on school construction costs.

“Twenty-four schools have gotten nothing,” D.C. Council chairman Phil Mendelson said. “It’s not like we haven’t spent a couple of billion dollars.”

At breakfast, councilmembers bemoaned the long-standing practice of retroactive change orders, in which the Council is asked to approve outlays for money that has effectively already been spent.

“We pass all this stuff today and they get away with it,” said Ward 2’s Jack Evans.

Unlike other Council-mayor showdowns of late, though, Bowser actually agrees with her former colleagues, saying she’s also “concerned” about school modernization costs at DGS. LL will see if there’s reason for concern later this month, when the D.C. Auditor is expected to release a report on how school modernization money has been spent.

Photo by Darrow Montgomery