Apparently this is not the best time for school districts to begin new construction projects. Mission Consolidated Independent School District just received the bids on the new administration building the district has been planning for more than two years. Instead of the project costing $9.5 million as originally estimated, the cost could now run $11.7 million.
The district received only two bids for the project. Those two bids were ranked at the district’s Facilities Committee meeting Wednesday, and the contractor was selected later that evening in a special called board meeting.
MCISD board member Patty Ocana-Olivarez asked why they didn’t get more bids, when the district usually receives four or more bids on projects.
Rick Rivera, MCISD assistant superintendent for operations, said they extended the due date for the bids, hoping to get more contractors, but “the word on the street is all the contractors are already tied up with projects and they cannot get any more bonding.”
Rivera explained, the City of McAllen is building hotels and the performing arts center. Also South Texas College has a lot of construction projects.
“They’re using most of the subs from the entire Valley. And throughout the years, the list of general contractors has shrunk dramatically. The one general we have working for us currently says he wished he could (bid on the project) but he just doesn’t have enough bonding capacity. “
In a special called board meeting held immediately after the lengthy Facilities Committee meeting, the board chose to enter into negotiations with the low bidder, Rigney Construction. The other bid was from Bullard Construction.
While Rigney’s base bid was $9.2 million, the board agreed to include nine alternates that were included in the bid packet prepared by the architect, at an added cost of $1,652,000. Although the total actual construction cost would then be a little over $10.85 million before negotiations with the contractor, “soft costs” such as architectural fees and financing will increase the total cost of the project by an estimated $880,000.
Rivera told the board several factors have driven up construction costs:
— The shortage of contractors bidding on jobs,
— Changes in laws such as the Davis-Bacon wage rate law, which caused labor costs to go up,
— New fire code requirements,
— Changes in HVAC (Heating Ventilation and Air Conditioning) and lighting codes, and
— A 4.5 percent annual inflation rate over the past three years.
The Facilities Committee reviewed each of the 19 alternates included in the bid package. Several of those alternates that the architect did not include in the base bid are essential to the project. These include Alternate #5, which is for data cabling, racks and other electrical equipment at a cost of $508,200; Alternate #6, for abatement and remediation during demolition of the current administration building, costing $505,000; Alternate #14 for 12 tons of air conditioning for the computer server rooms, costing $62,738; and $124,950 for Alternate #17, for building automation control.
In addition, the board members opted to approve several other alternates they felt were important for the functionality of the facility, such as adding sound proofing to accordion partitions that allow the proposed, larger board room to be divided into three separate meeting rooms. This alternate cost $100,674. They immediately dismissed “luxury” alternates, such as an additional $183,500 to put in terrazzo tile floors in all the hallways. The base bid only calls for terrazzo at the main entrance.
While there was some discussion of the $77,500 alternate for additional landscaping, the board ultimately decided to drop that alternate. Some landscaping is provided in the base bid, but the alternate would have made upgrades such as replacing concrete sidewalks with pavers and planting larger, more mature trees.
Any of the alternate items can be dropped from the contract if the board should decide to do so later. The board would like to consider doing some of the alternate work in house to save money.
The district had hoped to be able to move into the new building by November 2017, however, Rigney’s bid lists 548 days for completion once the project commences. The district may be able to reduce that number during bid negotiations with the contractor.
In an interview Wednesday, Assistant Superintendent Rivera stated, every summer he hopes the old building’s chiller system will get them through one more year. He estimates the cost to replace just the chiller system would cost the district $4 million to $6 million, not including abatement costs required to replace old piping and asbestos materials used in construction of the building.
The present building was built in 1953 as Mission Hospital. Major renovations and additions were made to the structure in 1967, 1975 and 1979. The school district obtained the building from the hospital in 1988 in a property swap. Since then, the district has made considerable renovations to convert hospital storage rooms, operating rooms, examining rooms and laboratory rooms into office space. Patient room bathrooms were converted into closets and supply rooms.
The 43,487 square-foot, deteriorating building houses 42 different departments and 128 employees.
The new two-story building will be 52,740 square feet, including a 6,397-square-foot board room – about triple the size of the current board room. The present building was built in 1953 as Mission Hospital. Major renovations and additions were made to the structure in 1967, 1975 and 1979. The school district obtained the building from the hospital in 1988 in a property swap. Since then, the district has made considerable renovations to convert hospital storage rooms, operating rooms, examining rooms and laboratory rooms into office space. Patient room bathrooms were converted into closets and supply rooms.