Mt. Vernon Register-News

February 11, 2014

Theater cut from base bid for new high school

The Register-News

---- — MT. VERNON — The Mt. Vernon Township High School Board of Education Monday approved cutting the theater and the football field from the base bid amount for the new school’s construction.

However, both items have been designated as alternates and will be returned to the new school plans if sufficient funding is available after rebidding.

These reductions and others have brought the base bid amount to roughly $2.5 million under-budget. The project’s total budget is now estimated at around $70.2 million, instead of $72.8 million.

This gives the district some breathing room when it comes time for rebidding, said Superintendent Michael Smith.

“We’re trying to minimize the risk of the rebidding process, given a longer time frame,” Smith said. “We’re hopeful then moving forward that we’ll be able to not only deliver on the base bid but portions of the alternates also.”

The MVTHS Board approved the final scope changes for the new school at a special meeting Monday night.

Representatives of FGM Architects and McCarthy were on hand to present a revised version of the cost reductions for the project, which eliminate the theater and football field from the base bid.

Chris Nisbet, project director for McCarthy, explained that making these cuts is regrettable, but that it’s important for the project to be under-budget in preparation for rebidding.

“We’re trying to find the path to be able to start writing contracts and taking bids,” Nisbet said. “And that’s what this is all based on. I don’t think it’s anybody’s best choice, but it is the path forward.”

What the district wants to avoid is a repeat of what happened during the initial bidding in December, when the bids came in at more than $6 million over-budget, school officials said.

MVTHS Board member Ben Mitchell said if the rebidding comes in significantly over-budget, too, it would likely jeopardize the state funding for the project.

“We can’t afford to fail,” Mitchell said. “We’ve got to have as low a budget as possible to make sure we have something (so we) don’t lose that state grant. … I want the stadium and the theater as much as anyone.”

Board member Jeff Harpole said he was not pleased with the new scope changes and how the theater and football field were being left out.

“If we don’t get some of this out there, especially like the shell of the theater, it’ll never get built,” Harpole said.

Also on Monday, Nisbet provided the board with a new project timeline, given the changes that have been made.

FGM Architects will need about five months to finish a redesign of the school.

The new gym is the most time-consuming part of the redesign, as it has been completely changed from the original plans. The facility will now be a combination of the main gym and auxiliary gym, and will be a single story instead of two.

FGM has until July 7 to complete the redesign, then the rebidding process will commence. The construction of the new school is now set to begin in mid-September.

Construction will likely take 18 months to complete and the district may be able to move in to the new facility in March 2016.

Prior to the scope changes being approved Monday, board members heard from the audience.

Local business owner Linda Woodrome made some especially pointed remarks, placing the blame for the project’s current state squarely on the shoulders of FGM Architects.

She objected to how parts of the project were being left out and the taxpayers weren’t getting the school they were initially promised.

“The whole package is what the taxpayers voted for and that’s what you were hired to design,” Woodrome said. “And now we’re at this crossroads, where we’re not getting everything that we have.”

The next full MVTHS Board meeting will take place at 7 p.m. Feb. 18.