New offers for elementary schools come back higher than expected – InForum

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WEST FARGO — Like many other public projects that have recently opened bids, West Fargo Public School’s latest plan to build a new elementary school in Fargo’s Rocking Horse Farm neighborhood has come in higher than expected by the district.

At the Monday, March 28, meeting of the West Fargo School Board, the board had to weigh whether to move forward with the project now or delay the project and ask companies to rebid in hopes that factors such that supply chain issues and demand for materials would drive prices down.

The district originally estimated the construction of the four-way schoolhouse to be approximately $17.3 million, but after the design was completed by the district consultant, the projected construction cost plus design was increased to approximately $17.7 million, which reflected the opinions of the architect and engineers. costs after taking into account the increase in the prices of construction materials and labor.

After bids opened last week, the school board found construction would likely cost about $14.6 million, nearly $3 million more than the budget for construction alone. West Fargo Schools business manager Levi Bachmeier said the cost per foot was estimated to be around $200 and is now around $278 per square foot for construction projects.

“Obviously, that wasn’t the news anyone was looking for,” Bachmeier said.

The board eventually unanimously agreed to award the base bid to Lee Jones & Son for $11.9 million plus a mechanical bid of $3 million to Peterson Mechanical and an electrical bid of 1 $.8 million to Scott’s Electric for a total of $16.8 million, meaning the overall budget needed for the project would be around $20.8 million.
To cover additional costs, the district will use additional dollars from the general fund of approximately $971,000.

“I think we all knew there were significant increases in the world of inflation, especially in construction,” Bachmeier said. “We’re going to have to add capacity to the school district at some point.”

At Monday’s meeting, representatives from YHR Partners advised the district that costs are not expected to decline in the near future, although markets are currently very volatile.
“It’s a tough pill to swallow, not what we were hoping for,” a YHR rep said Monday. “But I think if you had to wait six months, I think you would regret it.”

Board member Patti Stedman said she fears construction companies are trying to “reload” the district as material prices continue to rise at a rapid rate. But, district officials said companies that must bid on public projects must honor those bid promises.

“We’re taking every dollar we can get from every fund and putting it into this one project,” Stedman said.

Superintendent Beth Slette said while it was council’s choice, she recommended that council not postpone the project. Earlier this year, the school board approved the new elementary school boundaries on the assumption that the new elementary school could open in the near future.

“We’ve already approved this school and we’ve already disrupted people’s lives by deciding where they go to school,” Slette said.

The district has also formed a long-term facilities task force to look at what additional buildings it may need over the next few years and how to pay for them. However, the task force is just beginning to meet and won’t be making any recommendations to the board for months.

Bachmeier said the district will be able to cover the increased costs using additional funds from its general fund. The project is funded globally by a number of funds, including the Building Fund and ESSER funds, which have been disbursed to the district as part of COVID-19 relief. The district has been lucky in the past, such as when the district opened the bids to build Heritage Middle School, the project cost about $3 million less than expected. These savings were reserved in the district building fund.

“My big concern is that we won’t affect teachers’ salaries, we won’t affect curricula,” council chairman Jim Jonas said.

Bachmeier assured the board that the financial plan for the project would not affect these areas.

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