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Officials fear Edgewood school construction bids will be high

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Bids due today will reveal the cost of constructing the new Edgewood-area elementary school building.

Officials have mixed views as to whether those figures will come in at budget.

"The projections for the bids is that they're going to come in above the funding source," said Chuck Wilson, facilities director for Kanawha County Schools.

Originally budgeted at about $12 million, School Building Authority Executive Director Mark Manchin recently told the Daily Mail the anticipated costs for the entire project already have exceeded $21 million. The authority has committed about $8.8 million to the project, with the rest coming from the school system and a sale of bonds backed by federal funding.   

The unexpected price hike came largely from difficulties - to the tune of more than $6.5 million - in preparing the school site, said Scott Raines, director of architectural services for the authority.

The school's project-based curriculum dictates its design, and that also is affecting the bottom line.

"We've not constructed a building of this type before," Raines said.

The authority has built hundreds of schools, but Raines said none is like the "school of the future," as Kanawha County officials bill the project.

While younger students will be in traditional classrooms, older ones will be in larger rooms more conducive to group work and presentations, Raines said.

The curriculum decision led to a slightly larger building that looks different from a typical elementary school, Raines said.

When this project was developed, the typical cost to build an elementary school in the state was about $228 per square foot. Originally designed at 53,246 square feet, Raines said the school already was going to cost more than average.

The project has been scaled back to 51,000 square feet, but Raines said the average cost for elementary school projects has risen to $240 per square foot.

"The cost of construction has really gone up since we've started this project," Wilson said.

Wilson thinks bids will come in above the $11 million to $12 million previously projected.

Manchin and Raines said they've seen bids come in all over the board this year, and they're "cautiously optimistic" the figures will be favorable.

The project has been placed on agenda for the authority's Monday meeting in case the bids come in over budget.

The building was designed with the curriculum in mind, he said.

"I have balked at scaling this project back," Manchin said. "If we're going to build a unique building, we need to build it."

Wilson said about 30 contractors were at the project's pre-bid meeting. A contract could be awarded to one company or to multiple subcontractors. Wilson and Raines said bids from "multiple prime contractors" typically come in lower than others.

Manchin said authority officials will meet with county officials Friday to review the bids and perhaps even decide which should be accepted.  

Once a bid is selected, contractors need to wait until the building pad is ready, Wilson said.

Adam Krason, an architect with a firm assisting with the project, said the pad is still on schedule to be completed in November. Wilson said the site preparation work then could move to other parts of the site while construction starts on the building.

Construction should take 12 to 14 months, Raines said.

That timeline could change significantly if bidding doesn't go as planned.

"We're praying that the numbers come in good tomorrow," Manchin said Wednesday.

Bids are due by 2 p.m. today at the Kanawha County School's Crede Operations Facility.

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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