Base bids for a majority of the Monticello school facilities project came in about 3.5 percent higher than expected, but due to the construction manager model being used on the project, it will be a couple of months before it is known how close the project is to the overall $33.2 million estimate.
The overage on bids opened on April 17 totaled about $718,000, which was not surprising to Monticello School Superintendent Vic Zimmerman, who cited a booming construction climate that seems to be elevating prices.
“I mean, Champaign was 10 percent over,” said Zimmerman of that school district’s construction project.
“The issue is everyone’s got so much work to do. You’ve got $200 million worth of work at Champaign schools, the university is doing all kinds of work, and every time I open the News-Gazette someone is building a new apartment complex. Sometimes they’ll (contractors) throw in a number and add 20 percent, and say ‘if we get it, great. If not, who cares, we’re booked up,’” he added.
Instead of hiring a general contractor who would guarantee an overall project cost amount and hire subcontractors, the school district is using Petry-Kuhne/P.J. Hoerr as its construction manager. For the Monticello project, the CM will manage 18 separate bid packages in order to get the best price and/or fit for the local effort, which includes both additions and renovations at the high school and connected Washington Elementary School.
About 40 companies bid on 14 base bid packages that were opened on April 27. Some general contracting companies bid on most of them, while others were more specialized.
“Several companies bid on several of the packages, with others specific to asphalt, or windows, roofs, etc.” added Zimmerman.
Bids are in the process of being confirmed and vetted by Petry-Kuhne/P.J. Hoerr to make sure they meet bidding specifications. Formal approval of some of the more time-sensitive portions of the project like site work, the ordering of steel and some equipment will come at a special board meeting at 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 30, or at the May 15 regular board session.
“One way or another, we need to approve certain contracts, absolutely. We need to decide the Washington School demo, the concrete, the things that need to start immediately to keep the progress going,” said Chris Uhlarik of Petry-Kuhne. “There are certain ones that we absolutely have to have done.”
Approval of bids for items that are not at the front end of the project, such as flooring, can be approved later.
In addition, bids for electrical work and flooring have been extended in an effort to attract additional bidders.
“It’s always best to have a competitive bid,” added Uhlarik.
Also on hold for now is HVAC equipment the district had planned on buying directly through a purchasing cooperative. After being advised at a recent seminar to make sure such efforts result in the lowest price, an attorney told Zimmerman he was not 100 percent sure the method passes muster, even though state law allows it.
With that in mind, the board decided to take bids for mechanical equipment, then choose between the bids and direct purchase.
Complicating the matter, said architect Bruce Maxey, is the fact the direct purchase price was obtained for equipment that meets specifications for this specific project, a complicated one that will tie together existing and new heating and cooling systems.
“The problem is everybody’s equipment is a little bit different, and a lot of it functions a little bit differently. So, when you mix a cabinet unit ventilator from one manufacturer with a VRF system from another, the complexity just multiplies,” said Maxey, who advocated for the direct purchase option.
“Through the purchasing agreement, this seemed to be the way to get the system that had the most assurance would work,” he added.
The overall project budget also includes 15 percent in contingencies for unexpected costs such as budget overruns, which could still keep it within its overall budget, depending on how large the bids are.
Just who will be awarded bid packages may also depend on which alternatives the board decides to pursue, which could include a balcony addition in the high school auditorium and multipurpose rooms in the new gymnasium.
Costs could be brought down slightly with three items currently in the base bid that could be deducted. Those include a high school entry element, an alternate HVAC control unit, and installing new fire systems only in the new areas of construction.
But even if base bids are over budget, Zimmerman said there are other ways to pay for desired alternates. Options include using some of the $3 million the district has in its Working Cash Fund, and/or dedicating more of the 1 percent school facilities sales tax proceeds it receives.
Of the 18 bid packages, one has been formally approved – A $2,047,000 one for Midwest Precast Concrete to manufacture outside walls of the new gymnasium and Washington Elementary classroom addition.
The board has also approved a $225,000 contract with DEM Services of Addison to remove asbestos from the 1894 Old Washington building, as well as abatement in the pit gym and high school auditorium. That work should begin in early May.