Now that summer is here, and staff and students are out of the building, work has begun on the building project at the JH/HS. The first step in the project was to remove all hazardous materials. As with almost every old building, some of the materials used in construction at that time are considered hazardous today. While these materials, such as lead paint and asbestos, are hazardous, they do not cause any problems unless they are disturbed. Therefore, they have to be removed before demolition can begin. A company was hired to remove hazardous materials and they completed their work last week. The next step is the demolition phase.
Demolition is set to begin sometime during the week of June 13th. A temporary wall has to be built in the kitchen so that we can still use it once the old building has been removed. After the wall is built, demolition will begin and should be completed by the time school starts. The site will look completely different to be sure.
There have been a few setbacks in the project however. As most people already know, we are experiencing a volatile market place right now, and have been for over a year. One that we have not seen in over 40 years. Due to the scarcity of products, high gas prices and high inflation, the project came in over budget when it went out to bid in May. These things are out of our control. Product shortages related to the COVID shutdown, the war between Russia and Ukraine, interest rates going up, and politics have affected the price of materials, labor, and the cost to borrow money. More so than anyone could have ever predicted. Two years ago the bids would have easily come in under budget. In today’s market they did not. So what now you might ask.
Well…from the time that the bids came in over budget on May 5th until this very moment, the district has been working with the architects, engineers and our construction management company to find ways to reduce the cost of the project. We had to reduce the cost by one million dollars. We feel that we have done it, and DCI, our construction management company, is working to verify the numbers. When they have completed their work and verified that we have in fact reduced the project by the necessary amount, we will go back out to bid. Our goal is to have the project back out to bid in the next two weeks, and have bids back by the second week of July. Provided the bids come in under budget, the board can accept them and the contractors can order materials and prepare for the building phase of the project.
Cutting one million dollars out of a project means that we had to make some sacrifices that were necessary, but not ideal. One of the concessions was the length of the gym. Most high school gym floors in the state are 84 feet long. Collegiate and professional basketball courts are 94 feet long. There are a few high school basketball courts in the state of Iowa that are 94 feet long, but not many and they are in the new gyms that the metro area schools are building. We did reduce the gym floor from 94 to 84 feet, but we had to. Even though we reduced the size, we will still have more seating than we did in the old gym. The gym will still be bigger as far as square footage is concerned, and it will be an amazing facility. It will be something our community can be proud of, and it will certainly accommodate all of our activities.
There was a rumor that we cut out the fitness center that we plan to make available to the community in the off school hours. That is not true. The plans for the fitness center are still in the drawings and have not changed, other than the fact that it too will be a little smaller to save money.
As a team, we made close to 50 changes to the project to get to the one million dollar savings mark. Everything from removing ten feet from the gym, to simplifying the lighting package, using different materials that are cost effective, not paving the teacher parking lot, to simplifying the design and reducing square footage, and other changes too numerous to mention. We believe that when we send the project back out to bid it will come in under budget and still be an outstanding facility.
There is no doubt that this has caused a setback in our original project timeline. The process of redesigning the project and sending it back out to bid has taken an additional two months, but we are moving as fast as we can. At this time we do not have an updated project timeline, because we are waiting until the bids have been accepted to develop one. The availability of some of the materials varies from vendor to vendor, and it will depend on who wins the bid which is based on the lowest bid. For example, most of the exterior walls, called casting, are made of concrete and will be poured at the factory, trucked to the building site and set in place by a crane. Some casting vendors have a lead time of 4-6 months, while others have a lead time of 12 months. If the lowest bidder has the shorter lead time, we will be able to get the walls up much sooner. If not, it could be a while between demolition and when construction begins. We will know more on bid day and will have a schedule out soon after bids have been accepted.
While we have had a few setbacks, work has already begun and we continue to move forward. I know that in the end we will have a building that both meets our needs and will be a major upgrade for our students and the community. I believe we will all be amazed at the final product. Thank you for your patience as we work through these challenges, and I will continue to provide updates to the community as more information becomes available.