Community Forum Q&A
On February 1, a community forum was held to discuss the upcoming Capital Project Referendum vote. A lot of great questions were brought up during those discussions, and I wanted to share some of them to ensure that the community is as informed as possible as we head to the polls on February 14.
What guarantee does the community have that the District will not come back to the voters seeking even more money to complete the project?
Every low-bid contractor has agreed to hold their prices as the District awaits the upcoming referendum results. The additional $10.5 million will allow for the project to be completed in its entirety.
Construction projects often come with unexpected challenges, which may include abatement of previously unknown hazardous materials such as asbestos or petroleum in the ground. There are contingencies funds built into the project to account for these issues should they arise.
If voters approved the project in May 2021, why did they wait until October 2022 for bidding? Would the cost have been lower if the District had gone to bid sooner?
The project presented to the voters in May 2021 included the scope of the project and the estimated costs. The estimated costs were provided by the architectural team based on current projects, historical data and cost trends. As with any school capital project, the plan at the time of the vote is a best estimation.
Once approved by voters, the standard capital project process began. This process is outlined below:
- Design – This is an in-depth process during which architects meet with staff to design the spaces so that the finished product meets the instructional or programmatic needs of the District. Architects and engineers work closely to review the current infrastructure to ensure that every aspect of the work is possible and cost effective. For this project, this part of the process began in June 2021 and concluded as scheduled in March 2022.
- Approval – The project design is then forwarded to the New York State Education Department for approval. During this process, State Education Department (SED) architects, engineers and financial staff review every aspect of the project. This process can take many months to complete as SED works with the District’s architects and engineers to make required changes. For this project, the design was submitted to SED on May 10, 2022 and final approval was received.
- Bid Documents – After SED approval is received, the architects, engineers and construction managers work to prepare the final drawings and bid documents for prospective contractors. For this project, bid packets were released in October 2022, and bidding opened on December 8, 2022.
As a New York State public school we follow this process to ensure that every possible component of the project is eligible for state aid. For our District, the amount of state aid for capital projects is approximately 90%.
The professional fees for the architects and construction managers is nearly $3 million. Much of this cost is accounted for by the lengthy design phase of the project. If the district had begun the process earlier, and employed these contractors prior to the vote, the district would not have been eligible for state aid on costs incurred if the project had not been approved by voters.
Why didn’t the district opt out of project alternates to save money?
Late in the summer, a third party estimator indicated that the project was likely to be over budget. The Facilities Committee rank-ordered each element of the project, ranking those addressing immediate health and safety risks as the highest priority. This created a base bid package that was thought to be well under the $27.5 million budget. It was believed that there would still be enough money to then select many of the alternates.
The base bids exceeded the budget by nearly $4.5 million. It was determined that we could not further strip the project, and that nearly every alternate was necessary. An example of this would be the $2.2 million in HVAC replacements that made up 5 of the alternates.
Two alternates were determined to be not completely necessary. These alternates are:
- Construction of a canopy for the new concession area ($88,300)
- Wall tile in the pool, rather than painted walls ($125,000)
The decision was made to proceed with these alternates in the project because of the benefit the canopy would provide the community at athletic and other events, and the benefit of lower, less frequent maintenance costs of wall tile in the pool area.