Posted 5/17/16 (Tue)
By Jody Michael
The Divide County School Board is seeking more ways to cut costs on its over-budget building project while retaining as many of the planned additions and renovations as possible.
Sean Sugden and Anthony Corcoran of engineering firm EAPC and Matt Lierz and Robert Boyer of construction manager FCI presented new drawings to the board in meetings Tuesday and Wednesday last week.
Their latest proposal would put the most expensive pieces of the elementary school construction -- an elevator and wheelchair-accessible restrooms -- into the building’s north addition, rather than within its current footprint.
Designing an elevator into the addition, for example, would be easier and more economical than renovating the cafeteria in order to accommodate it, Lierz said.
“There’s a premium with putting foundations like that in the middle of the building,” Lierz said.
EAPC and FCI will also deliberate between moving the current north-end stairwell into the addition or extending sprinklers, fire doors and firewalls to its current location, depending on which would more easily satisfy newer fire code requirements.
These changes would not sacrifice the addition of three classrooms and a computer lab but might shrink the extra storage space that had been planned.
Sugden said he intends to present a handful of design options so board members can choose how many of the aforementioned changes they wish to approve.
Those designs are scheduled to be complete in late June or early July.
The board approved a bid of $116,039 for asbestos abatement in the elementary school by EACI of Indianapolis.
A further comparison of the HVAC upgrades to similar work last year in Grenora, on which EAPC based its cost estimate for Divide County, has provided more details about why bids came in at double what was expected.
“We got as much information as we could from the mechanical contractor,” Corcoran said.
A different type of temperature controllers resulted in about a $108,000 difference, or 8.5 percent of the overage. Sugden said he could probably still adjust the designs to reduce those costs.
Another 17.5 percent, or roughly $225,000, is because this project requires about double the amount of piping, which a smaller amount of ductwork is unable to offset.
Some extra electrical work and some initial support for the project’s next phase result in a few additional percentage points -- about $25,000 for each.
The labor rate also went up, by 20 percent, Corcoran said.
“That was something we were assuming was leveled off,” Corcoran said. “We may have thrown some inflation in there, but not 20 percent.”
The remainder is a mixture of the market value, delivery method and general conditions, Corcoran said.
The elementary HVAC work will begin immediately after Memorial Day, Lierz said.
Phase two, the elementary additions and renovations, will soon move into the design development stage with the goal of breaking ground in late September.
“We kind of have a tight design schedule,” Lierz said. “If we lose any time, we’re going to be looking at next spring.”
Phase three now encompasses all of the high school work: the additions and renovations, as well as the HVAC upgrades the board voted last month to postpone and rebid with cost reductions.
Lierz said that phase is on pace to have a final design ready in December for bidding in January and groundbreaking next spring.
District Superintendent Sherlock Hirning said he would like the proposed addition of a physical education classroom for the high school to begin at the same time as the elementary additions.
That classroom would allow the district to finally utilize 16 pieces of exercise equipment it received in a grant award in January; it has been sitting in storage due to a lack of space for it.
“This is the area we need as soon as possible, because we have all this equipment that we need to put somewhere,” Hirning said.
The district has hired Nicholas Ator as its new high school principal. He succeeds Russ McKenna, who is leaving at the end of the current school year.
Ator is presently a teacher in Parshall, as is his wife, Kristen, who will also join the district and teach in the elementary school.
The two remaining teacher openings are both in the high school: one for math and one for vocational agriculture.
Hirning said he has considered withdrawing advertisements for the vo-ag position, which has remained unfilled all school year. Cody Roland has been filling the role on an interim basis but does not wish to continue.
“I’m not sure what to think,” Hirning said. “Do we keep waiting and waiting, or bite the bullet and think of an alternative for students?”
But the lack of a vo-ag teacher has also left Divide County without a permanent adviser for its Future Farmers of America chapter, though Shelbey Jacobson has been assisting in the meantime.
“After three years, our FFA chapter is in jeopardy,” Hirning said, “but I think that’s going to change because of the shortage in teachers.”