Grayson awards FMS renovation bid

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By Ben Bomberger, Reporter

INDEPENDENCE — Nine bids were received for renovations at Fries Middle School, with the low bidder coming in more than $1 million lower than previous expectations.

During the school board's regular meeting Jan. 26, the low bid of $5.08 million was awarded to Blue Ridge Enterprises, Inc. — nearly $1.4 million below the amount expected.

“I am very pleased with the number of contractors that had an interest in the Fries Middle School project and the competitiveness in the bidding process,” Grayson Superintendent Dr. Elizabeth Thomas told The Gazette. “The low base bid from Blue Ridge came in at over a million less than we expected, which is great news for our school division.”

The closest bids to Blue Ridge came from Amber Construction at $5.39 million and Thor Construction at $5.44 million.

The highest bid received was from Corte Construction at $6.7 million.

County supervisors had told the school board that it was not to accept any bids prior to the supervisors' review — unless the bid fell within the 10 percent variance allowed.

With the new school in the western end of the county — a separate project — expected to cost $10.8 million after finishing road work, installing water and septic service and purchasing furnishings, the total cost will come in well below the $17.9 million allowed prior to review.

“I’m excited about moving forward with the addition and renovations to the Fries School,” Thomas said. “Our young people deserve a school designed for optimal learning and equipped for modern technology.”

The school board also approved two alternate bids of $118,000 and $388,000 for Fries Middle School. The first will be used to construct a connector road around the school and give a separate drop off for the buses and car riders. Thomas said this will ensure more safety and less traffic back-up.

The second bid will be used to completely renovate the school’s kitchen.

School Board Member Gary Burris wanted to make it clear that the money for the construction and renovation had already been approved.

“We’re not building schools and cutting jobs,” he said, referring to a proposal to cut jobs and/or reduce teacher salaries to cope with state budget cuts.

Thomas noted that the construction funding was all previously approved — and already received — and was solely for the building and renovations in the county. It could not be used for salaries.

In other news, the board:

• re-elected Wynn Combs as the chairperson for the 2009 calendar year. Board Member Misty Cassell was also nominated. Each received two votes, and the tie breaker was won by each drawing a piece of paper — one of which said chairperson, and the other was blank. Combs drew the paper with chairperson. Cassell was then nominated for vice-chair, and with no other nominations, received the seat.

• reappointed Mary Paisley as clerk of the board, Robin Hackler and Sherri Corvin as finance deputy clerks and Michelle Bane as federal records clerk/secretary.

• passed a resolution naming the week of Feb. 15-21 as School Board Clerk Recognition Week in honor of Paisley’s outstanding contribution to the division.