The Conte School project's specs are contained in two thick books. The final, 90 percent estimates will be submitted this week after being approved by the School Building Committee on Monday night.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The Conte School renovation is coming in just under budget as the project prepares for bidding.
Figures from the $31 million project's estimators has costs running $55,000 below budget.
"We are cautiously optimistic: the reconciliation came out about $55,000 under budget," said Mel Overmoyer, principal of Strategic Building Solutions, the owner's project manager, on Monday night. But he warned, "we still need that safety net."
Some redesign (including on the problematic retaining wall) and detailed analysis by the project's independent cost estimators lowered a cost estimate that had been running a half-million over
. The School Building Committee approved the 90 percent estimate that will be submitted to the Massachusetts School Building Authority this week.
The committee also approved a bid process that breaks out three items that can be reduced or eliminated as the "safety net" in case the bids come in over budget. Margo Jones Architects had come up with a lengthy list of possible reductions that has been whittled down to three, in order of priority: Turf (over synthetic ground), air conditioning in the hallways and "playscape."
The play area is estimated at $100,000 but would be reduced or rebid if the costs go over. Committee member Spencer Moser wanted to be assured the breakout of the playground wouldn't mean it would disappear.
"If we were taking away the play space in anyway, I think people would be bothered by that," he said.
Mayor Richard Alcombright assured that there would be "quality play space."
The reduction items total about $86,000, which would mostly come out of the city's side of the project, about $6 million. Overmoyer said the way to get the "best bang for the buck" was look at reductions in site work, which would primarily fall to the city. Direct school renovation items would require five times the amount in reductions because the state is reimbursing 80 percent.
The committee voted 9-4 to bid with the three items as broken out as possible reductions; some members felt that the project should be bid in total because the potential reductions were not significant in the overall budget and the items were important to the project.
The committee also voted to make Andover Controls a proprietary item for the heating, ventilation and air conditioning bid at the request of member Matthew Neville, the school system's director of facilities.
Neville said all the schools are using Andover equipment and a subcontractor coming in with a different system would complicate the ability to integrate it into the district's system and cause problems with maintenance. The school district currently contracts with a local HVAC company to maintain its Andover equipment.
"My feeling is we need to stay with a local contractor and the Andover equipment so we can maintain some sort of energy management," said Neville. He was concerned that another supplier would significantly underbid to get into the market and the schools would have to get second maintenance contract with a company out of New York or Connecticut.
Bids will be released on Jan. 20, with submission by Feb. 24 and review with the state on March 3. Should the bids come in overbudget, the project would have to be rebid and likely redesigned, said Overmoyer, which would mean a completion delay of at least three months.
Some 64 contractors have prequalified to bid, but only four general contractors applied and were prequalified.
Overmoyer said it was disappointing because more bidders can push bid prices down. He thought the lack of bidders was because of geography rather than too-busy contractors. "I think it's a harder area to service," he said. "It would have been nice to have one or two more. Hopefully, they'll all bid.
Several subcontracting items will have to be resolicited because they didn't attract the required three bidders, including elevators, plumbing and plastering. Committee member Nancy Ziter pointed out they did get high interest in other items, such as eight contractors who submitted for masonry.