TASD opens bids for school building project

On Thursday, the Tyrone Area School District opened bids for its middle/high school renovation and expansion project which is scheduled to begin construction sometime next month.
The bid opening is only the beginning of a process which leaves school board members and administrators with a number of decisions to make before the work actually begins.
Concerns have been expressed the project would come in substantially over even high-end estimates for the project. That figure was listed at just over $10.3 million according to information listed in planning documents forwarded to the state’s Department of Education.
In July, Dwight Knouse of Hayes Large Architects informed the board the bids could be $300,000 in excess of the high-end numbers. He said the reason for the possibility of high bids centered on the increase in cost and demand for certain building materials.
Superintendent Dr. William Miller had expressed concern the bids might even come in “millions higher.” Those fears were alleviated yesterday when the bids were actually opened. However, Dr. Miller expressed continuing concern regarding the project’s costs.
“The bids came in as expected and that is high,” said Miller. “The bids are pretty much in line with what (Dwight Knouse) had expected. It all depends on what deducts or additions are taken to the base bids.
“It was our hope, just a wish, that it wouldn’t come in as high as it has,” said Miller. “The high school/elementary school project (in the mid-90s) came in several million under the estimates. We hit the market at the right time.
“Times have changed significantly,” said Miller. “I am disappointed, but it’s not millions over.”
Miller was asked if the costs, as reflected by the bids that came in, would affect the project to the point where the district would reconsider it.
“I really can’t even comment on that, there are a number of deducts we have to look at,” said Miller as he considered options which could keep cost down.
“Even looking at all that (the options) I’m still disappointed,” said Miller. “These costs are never going to go down.”
Miller said administrators planned to meet today to continue discussions on the project. The school board has scheduled an open meeting to discuss the bids among other business at 7 p.m. on Sept. 7.
Earlier this week, the board decided to borrow $10 million to finance the project after originally planning to use cash from its capital reserves. The board decided using a bond note gave the district the potential for saving money. The type of financing the district is using will also give it an option of getting out of the financing quickly if it’s determined in the future the market isn’t advantageous to the district.
The project is expected to take about 16 months to complete an addition which will increase the square footage of the building by 25 percent. The move will allow for fifth grade students to be moved from the elementary school creating a fifth through eighth grade population at the middle school level.