Amherst construction project costs expected to rise by millions due to inflation

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AMHERST — Construction costs for a new school, fire station and Department of Public Works facility are now several million dollars higher than last year’s estimates, city officials say .

“We’ve hit this period of inflation which is putting greater pressure on our operating budget and our capital budgets,” chief financial officer Sean Mangano told members of the finance committee earlier this month.

Estimates for building a new DPW facility have increased from $20 million to $25 million.

For a new fire station, projected costs have increased from $15 million to $20 million.

The steepest increase is for a proposed K-5 elementary school from the preliminary 2021 estimate. The $40 million forecast for its share of the school’s funding last year. It is now set at $70 million.

“I want to emphasize that these are estimated costs…that number ($70 million) could go down,” Mangano told committee members. “We wanted to get it wrong on the high end for now.”

Factors include increases in building materials, labor, interest rates, and how much the state would fund for the proposed new school project.

At Friday’s school construction committee meeting, the board voted unanimously to use the so-called “Design, Bid, Build” option, which the committee had previously estimated to be worth about $93 million. , for a 3-story, 105,000 square foot structure at the Fort River Elementary School campus. Using the more traditional “Construction Manager at-Risk” option has been estimated at $100 million.

Until recently, city officials relied on the Massachusetts School Building Authority to pay about half of construction costs.

But now, it’s unclear if this 50/50 split of construction costs between the state and the city would still happen.

Data provided by Mangano shows that the current projected cost per square foot for the proposed elementary schools is approximately $800.

Currently, the MSBA reimburses a city or town up to approximately $360 per square foot, or 45% of the $800 per square foot cost.

City officials hope the MSBA will increase the reimbursement rate per square foot.

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