Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Jul 30, 2014

School board to rebid high school renovation

By DIANE VANCE | Apr 03, 2014

After reviewing options Wednesday with an architect and construction manager, the Fairfield school board unanimously rejected three of 10 bid packages for the high school renovation project.

The board approved re-bidding three bids received in March. To do that, another public hearing is needed. A public hearing for the Fairfield High School addition and remodel project is set for 6:45 p.m. April 14, the next regular school board meeting date.

The FHS renovation project was broken down into 10 bid packages, including general construction, masonry, roofing, glass and glazing, acoustical ceilings, tiling and flooring, elevator, plumbing and air handling, test and balance, and electrical.

When all the bids were reviewed, the total was $2 million over-budget.

Jay Perry, vice president of construction at Carl A. Nelson & Co. in Burlington, said the three weeks since the bids came in have not been wasted. Carl A. Nelson & Co. was hired by the school board in July 2012 to be construction manager of the high school project.

Perry said he’s thoroughly reviewed the bids received, found places to make some adjustments and recommends re-bidding the general contractor package, masonry, and the tiling and flooring bids. Each of these three bid packages had only one bid sent to the school district.

“This project was broken into five separate phases and it includes a remodel and new construction; it includes working while the building is occupied and working around several classrooms and moving classes around while work is being done, so it’s a difficult project and may not be attractive to all contractors,” said Perry. “The timeline may have scared away some bidders.

“We’re also competing for contractors with the large fertilizer plant being built south of Burlington, and there’s lots of construction going on in Iowa City,” he said. “We’ll focus on moving forward.”

Carl A. Nelson keeps a database of contractors, Perry told the board Wednesday.

“Before sending out the first bids we sent out notices to contractors to inform them about the upcoming bid packages and jobs,” he said. “I also sent notices to subcontractors so they could be aware of this job.

“At the pre-bid meeting and walk-through [held at FHS], seven general contractors attended and two more couldn’t attend but had been in contact,” said Perry. “The night before the bids were due, it was down to four contractors interested in bidding. The day of the bids being due, we learned only one general contractor was bidding — I knew it and he knew it.”

Woodruff Construction was the lone bid for general construction.

“We tried to re-bid the middle school project and got the same numbers the second time,” said board member Jerry Nelson. “That was also Woodruff. I don’t understand how he was the only bidder.”

“I think we could get better numbers for this,” said Perry.

The original timeline for the project had work beginning last month, in March.

Perry said in getting the bids ready to send out and returned in early March that parts of the conceptualized budget weren’t finalized to actual estimates. He said taking another month to prepare the bids might have been an important step that was skipped.

“The masonry package is a big, difficult job, and we knew that could be a problem,” said Perry. “The tiling and flooring is a big job and of course, so is the general construction.”

Perry said he was going back through the contractor database and making phone calls, talking with owners and presidents of companies directly, sometimes visiting in person, to talk about the FHS project.

“We’re doing everything we can to communicate specifically with contractors who could do the jobs,” said Perry. “Of course, they still go out as public bids.

“I have found one bidder in Des Moines who may bid on the masonry project and two other bidders for the flooring plus one more maybe.”

Board member Joe Carr asked what the impact is on the whole project now that it didn’t begin in March.

“It does shrink the schedule a bit, losing March to June,” said Perry. “It makes everything more compact. But we’re staying with the same finish date right now.”

The other option to re-bidding the three highest bids was to reject all bids and return to the drawing board and re-design the scope of the project. Administrators and school board members did not like this option.

Perry said the district could still accomplish the original goals but re-configure some parts and appearances. He suggested the easiest, cleanest way would be to lop off four science classrooms/new addition and simply remodel the current science classrooms.

“I’m not recommending that; I’m saying it would be the least disruptive change to the design,” he said.

Nick Hildebrandt, architect with StruXture Architects, which the board hired in November 2012 for the FHS project, disagreed.

“If we take away the new science classroom addition, we need to fit those students and teachers back into the main high school,” said Hildebrandt. “We spent a lot of time talking with teachers and rearranging classrooms so similar subject classrooms would be closer to one another. Adding science classes back in disrupts that new arrangement.

“If you change the scope of the design, we go back and have to re-talk with teachers and re-work design documents, which would add three to four months to the process.”

Superintendent Art Sathoff said the board should try to squeeze as much cost out of the current bids as possible to avoid a re-design.

“We’ve invested too much time and money in this vision to go back,” said board member Jeremy Miller.

Nelson agreed the three highest packages should be re-bid.

Carr, elected to the school board in September 2013, asked if the project budget was set at the $10 million bond amount.

“No, we borrowed $10 million because that amount got us the best bank rate,” said Sathoff. “The project budget is $10.3 million and the bids came in at $12.3 million. We have the money to go that high, but we’d like to get costs down.”

Fred McElwee, district auxiliary services director said by re-bidding the three big packages, there could be variances in some of the alternatives included in the packages.

District business manager Kim Sheets said she checked with the district’s financial advisors at Piper Jaffray, and the district has room to bond $2 million with the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy.

“That would limit spending on other things,” said Sathoff. “We’ve been trying to bank some funds to buy technology. But this isn’t an either/or situation. We can do both, just it would delay some things.”

The board and administrators will wait any further discussion about funding to see what happens in the re-bid process.

Going through the specifics of bid packages, Perry pointed out where savings could be found, including:

• A subtraction of $43,775 in the roofing package if the district changed from its preference of a modified bituminous roof to an EPDM roof.

• Remove the remodel of an existing classroom to a flexible, century 21 classroom space, subtract $18,383 (part of a re-bid package).

• Remove vinyl tile from ramps, corridor and stairs in specific areas and use concrete, subtract $9,073 (part of a re-bid package).

• Remove ceramic tile in bathrooms and use concrete, subtract $36,690 (part of a re-bid package).

• Hot water heater replacement, subtract $18,790. McElwee said replacement couldn’t wait for the construction project; it needed to be replaced sooner, so it is being paid for outside the scope of this construction project.

• Revise precast to brick at exterior, deduct $75,000.

• Masonry bid error, which included a duplicate price from another contractor’s bid package, deduct $165,000 (part of a re-bid package).

• Remove glass rail in lobby, replace with metal, subtract $15,000 (part of a re-bid package).

• Delete “chemsurf” application on science cabinets, subtract $8,000 (part of a re-bid package).

• Delete precast terrazzo treads/landing, subtract $64,000 (part of a re-bid package).

• Delete food service equipment, subtract $43,000; this is another expense that may be paid for out of different funds than the construction project.

• Evaluation of switching specified LED lights to fluorescent, could save $45,000.

The engineer is evaluating a different fire alarm system, alternate window framing system and deleting rigid insulation on the wrestling/auto shop prefabricated engineered metal building for further savings.

“If we can find another half-million dollars in savings through re-bidding the three packages, it would be good,” said Sathoff.

The seven bid packages not being re-considered include roofing, which received three bids, the lowest from Brockway Mechanical and Roofing in Burlington; glass and glazing received two bids, the lowest from Zepher Aluminum in Dubuque; plumbing and HVAC received four bids, the lowest from Cunningham Inc. in Oskaloosa; and to whittle costs, Perry and McElwee, decided the Test and Balance bid package, which received no bids, could wait.

“Test and balances is a contractor that comes in 18 to 24 months after the completion of a project and checks air flow, water flow and make sure all the systems are working as they are supposed to,” said Perry. “We didn’t get any bids probably because it’s two years away or so.”

It doesn’t have to be bid, it can be negotiated, added McElwee.

Two more bid packages only received one bid each, but Perry said the each came in under budget, were from good contractors and at good prices: acoustical ceilings, received a bid from Sticks on Stilts Inc. in Wayland, and the elevator package received a bid from Kone Elevators.

Perry contacted each of these six bidders and each has signed an agreement to extend the bids to be valid to May 30.

“We have from mid-April to mid-May to get the bids out and back,” said Perry. “We can still begin construction in June if all goes well.”

The board needs to approve all of the nine bid packages at the same time.

“It’s a big project and we may pick up some contractors that didn’t get expected work,” said Perry.

Hildebrandt agreed it is a substantial project, and outlined the total project by square-footage:

• Tier one, which is things such as placing air conditioning units in the classroom, covers 32,000 square feet.

• Light remodel, such as changing casework, painting, involves 13,000 square feet.

• Heavy remodel includes 37,000 square feet.

• New masonry, such as building the science classrooms, is 20,000 square feet.

• The metal building is 7,000 square feet.

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