Last week Quakertown Community school board officials were stunned by construction bids which came in approximately $11 million higher than originally anticipated for the high school renovation project.
The project was estimated to cost $50-60 million prior to contractor bids being received; however, earlier last week officials were presented with a significantly larger number.
“We’re extremely disappointed by the outcome [of the bids]. There is a significant dollar amount difference,” School board President Bob Smith announced.
Curt Santee from The Architectural Studio, the district’s architect for the project, presented the board with an explanation of the rise in cost as well as options for how to proceed.
Santee stated, “Market fluctuations are the main reason for the increase in cost amounts.” He went on to explain that after discussing the bids with the district’s finance committee, the project construction and “soft cost” total would be $71,294,824.
Soft costs would include fees for the project including insurance, building permits, moveable equipment and fixtures, site surveys, land development and engineering.
The Architectural Studio provided other reasoning behind the jump in cost by stating the effect Hurricane Sandy had on the labor pool and need for materials in New Jersey. Another key component is the rise of gas prices. With that spike, there will be an increase in cost of paving as well.
Overall construction costs are on the rise, Santee said. The Turner Construction Index shows a current 3 percent escalation as well as an expected increase to 5 percent by the end of next quarter.
School officials were left with the options of accepting the bids, making alternative choices to adjust the total cost, or to rebid the project including changing the scale of the plan. However, a rebid could bring costs up even higher.
After the board’s discussion of changes that could be made, such as less elaborate flooring, seating in the auditorium, and various other aesthetic adaptations from the original plan, officials agreed they do not wish to proceed with a rebid.
President Smith said, “This is a significant decision. We need to decide whether a special meeting is needed prior to the next scheduled board meeting on March 28.”
Officials said they would discuss the project and options further and announce those results March 28 after a March 19 special meeting.
At the March 19 meeting, officials failed to come up with a clear-cut decision on how to move forward, although voter referendum and town hall meetings were discussed.