Familiar bidders compete for school construction

Friday, June 22, 2007

Bedford County Board of Education has two bids for construction management services for a new elementary school on Learning Way in Shelbyville and a replacement building for Community High School in Unionville.

Both bids are from companies which are already working for the school system:

American Constructors, based in Nashville, was the construction management firm for Harris Middle School and is managing the current expansion of Central High School. Their bid is for a construction management fee of 3.5 percent of the project cost for either project individually or 3.0 percent for both projects together.

Sain Construction, from Manchester, is the general contractor for the expansion of Cascade Elementary School, which is now being completed. Their bid is 2.92 percent of the project cost for both projects.

The school board deferred action Thursday night on the bids and will study them for 30 days.

The elementary school and Community High School projects will be built using "construction management at risk," the same system as the SCHS and HMS projects. Under this system, a construction management firm is hired to oversee the building project. The construction management firm calculates a guaranteed maximum price and submits it to the customer for approval. With certain agreed-upon exceptions, such as changes to the project, the construction management firm commits to bring the project in for that price and is responsible for any overages.

The Cascade Elementary project, being smaller and simpler, was simply put out for bid to contractors.

The new elementary school, which has not officially been named but which is sometimes referred to as "Central Elementary" for the sake of convenience, will be located on Learning Way next to Harris Middle School. It will be the first completely-new school to open in the county in decades. The new Community High School facility, which will be located near the existing Community campus, will allow room for more students and will allow the middle school and elementary grades to expand within the existing facility.

A floor plan for the Community High School project is now being developed. Architect Stephen Curtis of Davis Stokes Collaborative reported that he has been meeting with principal Robert Ralston to discuss space needs and how best to lay out the building, both for short-term use and for potential long-term expansion.

Curtis asked the board to approve $9,200 to survey a wooded portion of the Community site which had previously not been surveyed. The board voted in favor. Curtis said an additional $5,000 to $6,000 in geotechnical testing will be needed at the site, but no action was taken.

Tom Grott of American Constructors reported to the school board on the SCHS project. Last month, he'd said the project was two weeks behind schedule, but he said that time has been recovered and the project is now back on schedule. Grott said the project has been helped by what he called good weather.

"The farmers would argue with you about that," said School Board chairman Barry Cooper.

The budget for the SCHS project included an allowance of up to $150,00 for soil excavation and geotechnical problems at the site. Grott said that $62,083 of that had to be used, leaving $87,917. He suggested that $50,000 of that amount be transferred from the soil excavation allowance into the general contingency fund for the project. That's because several unexpected changes to the project have required money to be taken out of the contingency fund. For example, several changes had to be made after the fire marshal's office got through reviewing the plans.

Those change orders, which the school board approved Thursday night, take the contingency fund from its original $750,000 down to $674,000. Moving the $50,000 as Grott suggested would bring it back up to $724,000. But school board members decided to wait and see what happens before transferring the money.

School board members will take a hard-hat walk-through of the SCHS project on Monday. Grott said the block walls are going up on the new two-story classroom and administration building and on the expansion of the gym. Crews are doing as much work as possible on the existing SCHS building this summer, so that the remaining work can be done next summer. This means some areas of SCHS may go without their dropped ceilings during the coming school year, since the ceilings were removed for some of the work done this summer.

The school board approved the low bid of $516,018 from Great Lakes West for new kitchen equipment for SCHS.

Meanwhile, Curtis reported on the expansion of Cascade Elementary, which is basically complete except for a few minor finishing touches.

The school board approved the only bid, $23,940, from Tennessee Mobile Carries Inc. for relocation of three portable classrooms which are no longer needed at the Cascade site. One will be moved to East Side Primary, another to Southside Primary and the third to Deery Eakin Primary. The board rejected an additional offer of $29,025 from the firm to build new decks, steps and ramps for the portables. Instead, the school system will check to see if its own in-house maintenance department can build the decks and ramps more cheaply.