Higher than expected bids means lots of small changes to school system central office plans
Architect Bill Burgin said it will take a lot of small changes to shave off the $1.2 million needed to get the Rowan-Salisbury School System's central office project within budget.
He recently broke the news to school board members that bids for construction came in higher than anticipated.
The lowest was from Matthews Construction at $7.4 million, of $152 per square foot, for the base building, $1.4 million higher than the $6 million budget approved by the Rowan County Board of Commissioners. Burgin said the school system can secure the funds for the additional $200,000.
The base design, a three-story, 48,818-square-foot facility, does not include space for the exceptional children's department. Those employees will move from rented space at Corporate Square to the Ellis Street administrative office.
Burgin identified where to make changes by talking to the contractor with the lowest bid.
He'll save a chunk of money by removing a hefty amount of infrastructure from the design, which would have made future renovations more cost efficient.
Burgin plans to reduce the width of the windows throughout the building and nix the ones that lined the back side.
He said wind bracing is required to make such large windows structurally sound, so making them smaller will eliminate that cost.
The floor-to-floor height of the building will be reduced so that the sprinkler system will meet the required water pressure without the need for a fire pump, which requires a costly generator, Burgin said.
"We'll raise the first floor 16 inches and lower the third floor 8 inches," he said.
The original plans included a sloped roof, but Burgin said it will now be flat to eliminate the cost of tapered insulation, which can be up to 19 inches thick in some spots. The roof will now have 5 inches of regular insulation all the way across and water will flow across the structure down a gutter.
"That's OK. We will still meet the new energy code," he said.
Burgin said the amount of precast detailing that was set to adorn the building will be cut in half.
Interior doors will now have cylindrical hardware instead of the mortise.
"Mortise is heavier duty. You think of it more as commercial grade, but they have cylindrical in commercial grade, so we'll save those dollars," Burgin said.
The facility was set to be built with cast iron piping, but that will be replaced with PVC.
"That's one of the first things we give up with any project because PVC is a good product," Burgin said. "If there is ever a problem with PVC, it's usually during construction, not during the life of the building."
The contractor will no longer install the data cabling throughout the building. That task will be handled by the district.
"That's a cost shift," Burgin said. "It will save money because the school will only wire the computers they put into the building. We would have been wiring all the places where computers could potentially go."
The board room was set to include two partitions, but now it will only have one.
Burgin had planned to have a board table built into the room, but that $20,000 cost could be nixed.
"Since they have a board table out at Long Street now, we'll bid that as an alternate so that if we have to save more money we can cut that," he said.
Burgin said the $125,000 decorative dome for the top of the building will also be bid as an alternate.
"We have some interest in the private sector to buy it," he said. "It's not an item that we would recommend taxpayers pay for, but it will add to the building and make a nice, strong statement for the school system."
Burgin is hoping to have the plans ready to bid out again by Oct. 15.
Instead of bidding the project for four weeks, it will be out for three weeks.
That will give the school system enough time to get it on the agenda for the Nov. 19 county commission meeting to present the bids.
County Manager Gary Page said that's necessary because the county will be borrowing the $6 million even though the school system is pledging sales tax dollars, which can only be spent on capital projects, to pay back the debt.
"The county will actually have to be the applicant to the Local Government Commission because school systems can't incur debt," he said.
Page said the board could vote to move forward with plans that night or take it up at the next meeting, which will fall after elections when two new board members are sworn in.
"I would think as long as they are doing the things they are supposed to do, then we'll keep moving forward," he said.
Gene Miller, the school system's assistant superintendent of operations, said he doesn't expect any roadblocks.
"I've got a letter of commitment from the board of commissioners signed by the chairman," he said. "All we need to do is come back and update the commissioners. It doesn't really matter if this particular board is there or not; we still have a written commitment from the county."
Miller said the school system's sense of urgency comes from wanting to get the project done as quickly as possible.
"We don't want to take any longer than we have to get going," he said. "If we don't get it approved until January or February, there can be bad weather in February and March and we could be looking at adding another three or four months."
Burgin has suggested that the school board present the new bids along with the original bid for the first alternate to commissioners.
That alternate includes a three-story shell addition of about 14,000 square feet that can be upfitted to move the exceptional children's department into the building later.
R.K. Stewart & Son's bid for that project was about $8.4 million, or $133 per square foot.
Burgin said if commissioners opted to allow the district to borrow more money now when construction costs are low, the building would include all the square footage needed for the future.
"I think the school system has made it clear they have the resources to pay back to loan to cover it," he said.
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.