Mar 15, 2013.
By Chris Ruvo Correspondent
Posted on March 15, 2013
It felt a bit like a sucker punch.
The feeling, that is, that came when Quakertown School District officials opened bids from contractors interested in undertaking the proposed large-scale renovation of the high school.
District officials had estimated the project would cost between $50 million and $60 million.
But based on the bids that came in this week, the price tag for construction and soft costs is in the $71.3 million range, according to an assessment by The Architectural Studio, the Allentown-based firm managing the renovation project for the district.
“We’re extremely disappointed in the outcome,” school board President Bob Smith said at Thursday night’s meeting.“This forces us to think long and hard about what we’re going to do.”
As of press time, the board had not decided what direction to take.
One option is that the board could scale down the scope of the project and rebid. But with construction costs rapidly rising, subsequent bids could come back higher, even with a scaled-back plan, said Curt Santee, a principal at The Architectural Studio.
Indeed, rising construction costs were a key reason why bids were significantly higher than expected. Santee said the Turner Construction Index indicates that construction costs have recently escalated 3 percent and may grow to 5 percent more by next quarter.
Hurricane Sandy also contributed to cost increases, Santee said, with the rebuilding work in New Jersey pulling in manpower and materials, driving up prices for each.
Plus, Quakertown appears to have gone out to bid at a time when the construction industry, long laid low by the recent recession, appears to be getting back on its feet. And with greater demand, comes steeper prices.
“The building industry is starting to bounce back,” said Santee.
Despite the hefty price tag, Santee noted there are a number of positives to keep in mind about the high school renovation.
For one thing, the planned project meets all educational needs and accounts for critical issues such as safety, stormwater control and air quality. Plus, the revamped facility would allow for comfortable future expansion of educational and technology offerings.
In other news, a number of district parents asked the school board for a later start time for middle-schoolers. They’re concerned that the half-hour earlier start time, first put in place in 2009, allows children to get home too early in the afternoon, before parents can be around to provide proper supervision.
Some parents, like Chris Sheridan, a Bucks County Corrections officer, fear that students could be prey for opportunistic child predators.“These people are out there and they’re after our kids,” he said.
Still, board officials said switching up bus schedules to accommodate different start and dismissal times could, depending on the option taken, cost the district considerable extra cash. Depending on how exactly the busing would be worked, additional costs could be in the neighborhood of $350,000 to $500,000.
While the board took no action on the matter Thursday, solutions discussed included exploring the possibility of having LifeSpan provide child care at Milford Middle School at the expense of participating parents. LifeSpan is a child care provider that serves Bucks, Montgomery, and Lehigh counties.
Another suggestion centered on seeing about having Milford Middle School students bused to the Quakertown YMCA, where according to parents there is a program that is free for Y members and $65 a month for nonmembers. Strayer Middle School students are able to walk to the Y to participate, parents said.
Get ready to bend over, people!
$71M reno + PSERS = one sore butt!(and bank account)