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Cost for construction of new school on target

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - School officials were pleased to learn it will cost less than $12 million to construct the new Edgewood elementary school building.

But the total cost for the "school of the future" still appears to be at least $1.5 million more than what's available for the project.

While bids unveiled Thursday were less than what some officials had predicted, the cost of preparing the site for construction has been significantly higher than initial estimates.

"We're going to have to ask the authority for additional money," said Mark Manchin, executive director of the state School Building Authority. "I don't think there's any question about that."

Officials with Kanawha County Schools and ZMM Architects, the firm working with the authority on the project, led the bid opening Thursday afternoon at the Crede Operations Facility. Fourteen companies submitted a total of 19 bid packages.

The apparent low bid was $11,764,30, said Adam Krason, ZMM architect. A previous ZMM estimate put the cost at $11.22 million.

Krason said that price was determined with the hope the school would be 51,000 square feet, and construction would cost $220 per square foot.

Originally designed at about 60,000 square feet, Krason said the building was reduced in size to 52,246 square feet. At that size, the bid price received Thursday comes out to $220.94 per square foot.

Krason was pleased with that number, considering the building is designed differently than a traditional elementary school.  

Chuck Wilson, facilities director for the county school system, feared the bids would come in closer to $13 million. After poring over numbers while the bids were read, he appeared relieved.

"The community has been waiting a long time for this school, and it looks like we made it one step closer to completion," Wilson said.

The school will replace and consolidate J.E. Robins and Watts elementary schools, and is designed around a project-based learning curriculum. There will be larger classrooms for older students to conduct group projects and presentations.    

Bids were submitted as a single package or through multiple contractors. As Wilson and Manchin both predicted Wednesday, the multiple prime bids turned out to be a little less expensive.

The $11.76 million figure comes from piecing together the lowest bidders from the different sections of the project, like plumbing, electrical work and heating and cooling.

School officials also sought two alternate bids that included optional add-ons to the project.   

The alternate bids were for two additional rooms: one for art or music and another for use by social services provider Prestera.

After looking at the numbers, Krason and Manchin said the alternate bids would add a little more than $300,000 to the total cost. They would add about 3,000 square feet to the school, bringing down the cost per square foot, Krason said.

The county will decide if it wants to proceed with these aspects of the project, Manchin said.  

Each of the apparent low bidders needed to submit additional materials to the authority Thursday afternoon before any final contract decision could be made. Krason didn't think any contract would be finalized until Monday at the earliest.  

Officials have 90 days to award contracts. Once a contract is awarded, any additional costs associated with that section of the project is borne by the contractor, he explained.  

"They're locked-in at this bid price," Krason said.

The cost of the entire project has risen considerably above original projections, thanks in large part to about $6.5 million in site preparation costs.

Manchin said he and his staff had hoped to make up a little money lost on the site preparation through a lower construction cost.

The total project budget is still $21 million to $21.5 million, he said. Officials have allocated $19 million to $19.5 million.

"We've got some work to do," Manchin said. "I'm not going to kid you . . . we've got some work to do."

The authority is considering several measures that could close the gap, Manchin said. There could be as much as $400,000 in the state School Access Safety Fund, he said.

Purchase of furniture could be deferred. That would give the parties more time to figure out how to pay it, Manchin said.

Wilson said the county normally doesn't move on to furniture purchases until building construction is well under way. He thought these and other items like the technology to be used in the school would be purchased in six to eight months.

In brief conversations Thursday afternoon, Manchin said his staff had found about $500,000 that could be cut without affecting the integrity of the project. The county school system could identify additional funding as well, he said.

Manchin and his staff are meeting with school officials this morning to discuss the project further. Manchin said he would present the suggestions to the authority board at a Monday morning meeting.

Additional funding for other authority projects will be discussed during that meeting, but Manchin said he and Kanawha County school officials are committed to seeing this school completed.

Wilson said the site preparation team is a little ahead of schedule, and Krason said construction on the building could start as soon as November. The expected completion date is February 2014, with students entering the following fall.

Contact writer Dave Boucher at 304-348-4843 or david.boucher@dailymail.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/Dave_Boucher1. ;


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