School system central office bids higher than expected
By Sarah Campbell
SALISBURY - Bids for construction of the Rowan-Salisbury School System's downtown central office building came in higher than anticipated.
"I wish I could say that I have perfect news or great news, but I can't," architect Bill Burgin told school board members during a work session Wednesday. "I am optimistic that I can get us to where we need to be."
The lowest bid of about $7.4 million, or $152 per square foot, for the base building came from Matthews Construction. That's $1.4 million higher than the $6 million budget approved by the Rowan County Board of Commissioners.
The base design is a three-story, 48,818 square-foot facility. It does not include space for the exceptional children's department, which will move from rented space at Corporate Square to the Ellis Street administrative office.
"That really represents from my perspective the minimum building that you need. It does allow for about 1,500- or 2,000-square-feet of growth," he said.
Burgin said to get the bids low enough to build the base structure, he needs to strip the infrastructure he included to make future expansions more cost-efficient. That includes ditching additional electrical capacity and about 40 piles that were going to be added to the foundation, which means the columns along the common wall won't be strong enough to attach an addition in the future.
"You can't get to $6 million without making some changes," he said.
Burgin said he's changed his focus from being wise to being frugal.
The overall plans won't change much, but Burgin said some of the windows will shrink and inside features will be nixed to get the building cost down.
The lowest bid for the first alternate that Burgin designed was from R.K. Stewart & Son for about $8.4 million, or $133 per square foot. That includes a three-story shell addition of about 14,000 addition square feet that can be upfitted to move the exceptional children's department into the building later.
Burgin said the bids for the first alternate were on target near the $8 million projection.
"I can promise you you'll never see a building that big built that cheap ever again," he said. "I fear if the school board has to go back to do that addition it will be five times that price."
Burgin said with the cost of construction being down, it might be a good time to appeal to commissioners to borrow $8 million instead of $6 million.
"You might be able to get the building you want totally sized," he said.
School board member Bryce Beard said it would be a better move to go ahead with the first alternate to save money down the road.
"If we don't do this, we'll be faced with the same problem we have now," he said. "It's good business to do things right the first time."
School board member Richard Miller said it's important to point out that the school district is building the central office with its own funds.
"It's not local property tax money we're asking to be spent on this," he said. "Every dime that we as a school board are wanting to commit to this project is from the 1983 and 1986 sales tax that was specifically passed for capital projects."
Miller said that's why the school system should try to build the building with the shell addition now. "That is being a good steward and good investor of state sales tax money," he said. "It's the right thing to do, it's the right time to do it."
Burgin said the district will accept bids for three weeks starting Oct. 15.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.