Friday, May 13, 2005
School wastewater system back before voters Construction could begin this summer
The school wastewater treatment system will clear a final hurdle this month if voters approve construction funds at the Spring Town Meeting and the polls.
The school will ask voters to approve $1,170,000 to build the system. If people feel some déjà vu, they are right. A Special Town Meeting convened in November 2003 already approved $1,279,000, an amount close to the new request.
Delays and re-designs
In the one-and-a-half years since funds were approved, the project has been held up by delays waiting for approval of system by the state Department of Environmental Engineering and for final engineering designs. In the interim, construction costs, both for materials and labor, rose sharply.
After the 2003 Town Meeting, the building committee expected to award the contract and start construction in 2004. The school filed an application for a groundwater discharge permit from the state DEP in October 2003 that was finally approved in June 2004.
Engineering design work by Hoyle, Tanner and Associates was completed last October and the project was finally put out to bid for contractors on November 1. When the lowest construction bid opened at the end of November came in at $2.2 million, the price was considered too high and a complete project went back to the drawing board in an attempt to decrease the cost.
Project costs rise
The low construction bid for the project opened last week was $2,038,000. After adding a 10% contingency fee of $203,000 for unforeseen expenses such as finding excessive ledge during excavations, and after adding various engineering and project management costs, the system is expected to cost $2.6 million to build. In addition, when moneys already spent on engineering fees and bid expenses, totalling $172,000, are added in, the total project is close to $2.8 million.
But the school does not expect project costs to run that high. "We don't anticipate spending it all. We hope to manage expenses down to a lower amount and return money to the town," said School Business Manager Steve Moore. "We don't want to go back to the town again for funds." The School Building Committee built in the maximum possible engineering fees for the one-year building project, so it would not have to request funds again.
The school saved some money by relocating the treatment building from the hill between the school gym and Spalding Field to its present site off the driveway at Banta-Davis, but not as much as it hoped. The difference between the low bid of $2,182,000 received last November and the low bid opened last week for $2,038,000 is $144,000. But after deducting $25,000 in engineering redesign fees for moving the building to Banta-Davis, and $4,300 for rebidding expenses, the actual savings are now about $114,000.
With permitting and engineering design work in place, the project is ready to proceed and construction could begin this summer. If the new project costs pass by a two-thirds vote at Town Meeting on May 23, the funds need to be approved again by a simple majority of voters at the town election on May 31.
The $1,279,000 previously approved by voters was deducted from the new Town Meeting request, along with about $185,000 remaining from funds set aside for the septic system from the 1997 school Link Building project.
"We want to get the project underway," said School Building Committee Chair Christy Barbee, expressing the relief that many will feel when construction begins. "It's hard when you care about the school to have to spend this much time and money on the wastewater plant and not on education."
Previously, the former School Building Assistance Bureau agreed to a 60 % reimbursement for the wastewater project, a rate tied to the Link Building project in 1997. The SBA allotted state reimbursement for a new septic field for the building project at that time.
Formerly the School Building Assistance Bureau was part of the state Department of Education. The agency is undergoing reorganization to improve its efficiency, and is now part of the state treasurer's office. Despite the reorganization, the school believes the project remains eligible for the reimbursement. Currently the school receives $137,000 a year from the state as reimbursement for the 1997 building project. The annual payment from the agency will likely be adjusted upward after the wastewater project is finally completed and audited, says Moore.
See the May 6 Mosquito for more on the project.
© 2005 The