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HILLSVILLE — Carroll School Board members rejected all construction bids in a special meeting Tuesday, in an attempt to keep the cost of construction efforts at the high and intermediate schools under $15 million.
The school division’s budget is based on the award of Qualified School Construction Bonds for nearly $15 million. This money must pay for the additional space needed to turn the intermediate into a sixth through eighth grade facility and shift the ninth grade to the high school in order to close the aging Woodlawn School.
Educators had sought bids to build new classroom wings, administrative and media centers and other alternates in case the money held out, but the bids didn’t come in low enough even for the base bids.
Carroll Schools Superintendent Greg Smith signaled at the outset of the meeting that educators would keep whittling away at the size and scope of the project until they get something they can afford to build.
“This project and the saga continues,” he said. “It’s clear to me that we will have a project — it will not be the project we want, but it will be the project that we have.”
The challenge will be to fit the construction cost into a $15 million “bottle.” Smith said. Some components that educators want probably won’t happen.
He’s been consulting with Pinnacle Architects’ Randy Baker to find out what happened with the bids and where to go from here.
Starting with the intermediate school, Baker said removing the $800,000 contingency built into the project would take it down close to $4.8 million.
“A lot of people probably didn’t know it had that number figured into that,” the architect said.
Why did the intermediate price come closer to its estimate than the high school? Smith asked.
That’s because the architects reused as much of the existing systems at the intermediate schools as possible, Baker said. The high school cost included a lot of demolition and replacement of heating and air conditioning components, electrical and other systems throughout the school — work worth about $5 million.
Getting new mechanical systems for the whole facility in one swoop did not happen like the architect hoped.
“If you will lay blame, then lay it on me,” he said. “But, we tried to get the school system as much as possible…”
Instead of trying to serve the new ninth grade academy wing from the existing part of the building, its mechanical systems should stand alone. Baker believed that would cut down on the costs.
Based on $130 per square foot for the 40,000 square foot ninth grade wing, Baker estimated the new addition could cost about $5.6 million.
What was the contingency on the high school? School board member Phillip Berrier asked.
That was $1.4 million, Baker said, which was “really high — about a million dollars too high.”
Contractors had to fill out extra paperwork in order for the project to comply with Rural Development regulations, Smith said. He didn’t see where that could be avoided, because if they don’t include the USDA paperwork, the project will never be able to receive federal funding.
Bids for the new baseball diamond also came in high, which he didn’t completely understand, Baker noted. There was a lot of dirt to move for the field on the hill, but he couldn’t explain why the bids were so far above estimates.
Berrier said he comes from a baseball family and he wouldn’t like to see the students go without.
Another factor that may have impacted the school system was that the ability to negotiate with the low bidder on the costs has to be written into the bid documents from the first, Baker said. That was not included this time, but it will be if the educators decide to rebid the project.
It concerned Berrier that the school system can’t afford to renovate the classrooms inside the existing schools. He’d also like to see the science labs updated.
Discussing rebidding the project, Berrier asked whether it wouldn’t be a natural tendency of the contractors to submit lower bids.
There’s a danger the low bidder will say they don’t want to deal with it anymore and give up, Baker answered. A minimum of three bids is needed just to open them up.
As the Qualified School Construction Bonds were sold on the same day as the meeting, Smith said they have exactly six months to sign a contract with a construction company and three years to complete the project.
If educators decide to rebid the project, Baker advised them to give the contractors four extra weeks to prepare their bid documents — that may attract more companies and more subcontractors, as well.
But the bid climate is what it is, the architect said. “We tried to give the school system as much as possible — it didn’t work.”
Berrier made a motion to reject all the bids, and School Board Member Bob Utz seconded it.
Even with building the new spaces at the schools, School Board Chairman Franklin Jett said his biggest concerns remain — the old parts of the schools will still have old heating and air conditioning systems and water lines.
All school board members approved the motion.
“Back to the drawing board, boys,” Jett said.
Smith recommended that architects work on redesigning the plans and report to the school board at its July 12 meeting.
Baker said they can do that, as the only changes that architects will make to the designs will involve the mechanical systems.
In a related item, Berrier also made a motion asking the Carroll Board of Supervisors to appropriate the proceeds from the Qualified School Construction Bond sale — $14.88 million — to the school system’s budget.
Hillsville approves changes to CCIS site plan
HILLSVILLE — A new traffic pattern for the modified Carroll Intermediate School and more parking resulted from an educator’s visit to Hillsville’s planning commission Monday.
Carroll Schools Superintendent Greg Smith had to take the site plan for the future middle school facility before both the planning commission and Hillsville Town Council the same day to get their approval.
Chairwoman Ann Largin reported the results to the council members.
The main concern that planning commission members had involved the idea for buses to go down Quesenberry Street, then turn on Childress Street to drop off students behind the school, she reported. They expressed a feeling that the turning radius on those streets is too small for school buses.
They found an alternative, which both parties accepted, that would end the practice of parents dropping their children off on Main Street in front of the school.
“After a great deal of discussion on that, they agreed to change it so the buses would turn in there at the gym area, where they have all along, and that parents that were letting children off [on Main Street] would go down Quesenberry Street, Childress Street,” Largin reported. “And these children would be let off behind the building — that way, it would take all the children off the street… which was so dangerous.”
The planning commission members also recommended that the school system install a sediment basin and a fence around it at the lower ball field, she continued.
Smith told the planning commission that the upper gravel area on the softball field could be paved for additional parking, Largin said.
The old maintenance or agriculture building will give way to a parking area too, she said.
“There’s quite a bit of parking added, which has to be a plus,” Town Manager Larry South noted.
Given these items, Largin said the planning commission recommended approving the intermediate school site plan.
Council Member Ed Terry made the motion, seconded by Greg Yonce and approved by unanimous vote.
Mayor Bill Tate said the only thing he didn’t like is that Park Street wouldn’t be opening back up.