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Carroll awards bids for school construction

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A new gym will not be part of renovations at two county schools.

By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — Updates at two Carroll County schools will proceed without a much-desired auxiliary gym at the high school, for now.
Unable to get satisfactory cost savings by trimming other items from the Phase III construction plans, the Carroll School Board decided on Thursday to accept the low bids for just the basic work at the high and intermediate schools.
Low bidders were New Atlantic for the high school and Triad Builders for Carroll Intermediate.
Before making that decision, school board members first went over a list of “value engineering” items that Pinnacle Architects brought back from the apparent low bidders in an attempt to save money and include the auxiliary gym in Phase III’s $15 million budget.
Educators have stressed that the existing gym at the high school will not be able to provide physical education classes to all grades once the ninth grade is transferred over from the intermediate school.
Architect Randy Baker went over a list of nine items at the intermediate school that the apparent low bidder had suggested leaving out of the project. It included removing the conduit system for the fire alarm system for a savings of $24,500; removing parking for a savings of $17,500; and removing a canopy, brickwork and signs for a savings of $23,500.
Indicating that the list didn’t provide much overall savings, Baker brought up a suggestion to remove the new administration addition from the plan, saving $352,000.
“You could not replace that addition to that building for that,” he told the school board. “If you would take that portion off the building and actually tried to bid that separately you’d probably be over a million dollars or so.”
The architect added that the contractors acknowledged that they couldn’t build the new administration area for that cost.
In the end, Baker couldn’t recommend taking these items out of the project. They wouldn’t provide much savings.
Moving the administrative area to the entrance would free up the old space for two classrooms and a teacher work area, Schools Superintendent Greg Smith and the architects discussed. Probably more important is providing better security by having a way to monitor the entrance.
The sixth grade wing to be added will provide 17 new classrooms, as the school will house grades six through eight after the closing of Woodlawn, Smith said. The project will add parking areas and improve the parent drop off situation.
Though they had tried to reduce the cost of the auxiliary gym at the high school, architect Frank Williams maintained that the best case scenario would be to build it as originally designed.
Baker listed the changes they considered to save money — moving the new gym to the senior parking lot outside the auditorium, making it one story and removing the elevator, making it a steel-framed building, changing the wood floors to tile and more.
These changes could save $700,000, but that still wasn’t enough to make the gym affordable in the $15 million budget.
Williams wondered if there were any possibility to get the extra funds needed to build the gym just as it was designed.
Building the gym in the parking lot would cause other pitfalls, like taking away parking, he noted. Williams liked the gym where they originally designed it because the land isn’t needed for anything else.
“If we had a million dollars, we could build the thing the way it needs to be built,” Williams said.
School Board Member Reginald Gardner wondered if the educators could award the work to the low bidders while leaving the auxiliary gym, an add-alternate, off for now.
Williams recommended awarding the contracts for the base bids at the high and intermediate school.
“You’ve got the contractors and they’ve got the low bid right now,” the architect said. “No matter what you do, you’re never going to get it at that price again.”
Maybe in the interim, officials can figure out a way to get the funding for the auxiliary gym, he added.
Smith didn’t see much of a chance of getting more construction money over the $15 million in qualified school construction bonds the school system has now.
“Frank, I really applaud your passion, but honestly I think we have to work with what we have right here,” Smith said. “I don’t think there’s a possibility of any [additional] money right now.”
The architects noted that, for some reason, they have gotten lower per square foot prices in North Carolina — between $100 and $120 as compared to about $150 per square foot for the Carroll schools.
Noting the latest round of construction bids were only good until Oct. 29, school board members followed the architects’ advice and awarded the base bid contracts to the low bidders.
Gardner made the motion, and all five school board members voted for it.
“I think you made the right decision,” Williams said.
“I think we made the only decision,” Gardner said.