School board accepts bid $3 million over expected projections

At the Huntington County Community School Corporation Board of School Trustees’ regular meeting Monday, Oct. 8, school officials were shocked to learn that the bids to construct the new Roanoke Elementary School came in roughly $3 million over the projected cost.

Architect Dana J. Wannemacher, of Barton Coe Vilamaa, said Fetters Construction, of Auburn, was the lowest bidder of four bids received on the project, with a total cost of $19,048,160 – representing a 20 percent increase per square foot over projections for the building. He explained the bulk of the hiked amount was due to an increase in masonry material costs.

“We’re being told that that’s being driven primarily by a shortage in labor,” Wannemacher said. “That shortage of labor runs across all the trades to some degree.”

He also said general contractors are busy with work for the next year and there is no discount on labor or materials because there is enough work for them that they don’t need to offer lower prices.

Wannemacher added that he saw no advantage to rebidding the project unless the building was significantly redesigned, either in size or quality. One alternative would be to use structural steel rather than masonry, which would not last as long as masonry. Also, some companies indicated to him that they may not submit a bid if the project was rebid.

Board member Kevin Yarger said he was not in favor of going with a cheaper build.

“Fifty years ago this corporation built a high school with cheap walls, because they were cheap,” he said. “And now we’re talking about what we’re going to do with that building because it has cheap walls.”

Board member Brian Warpup said he didn’t see any advantage in delaying the project.

“I just think the market says that today is the cheapest it’s going to be. Tomorrow is going to be a nickel higher, and so forth,” he said. “I think we all in our daily lives understand that this is how it is, not just the school building.”

“I had the wind taken out of my sails when those bids came in,” added board member Reed Christiansen. “I’m disappointed that the bids are where they are, based on what we were assuming on cost per square foot – red in the face about it – but it just sounds like it’s just going to go up, and we’re going to continue to have issues if we delay.”

The rest of the board followed suit, accepting Fetters’ bid unanimously.

On another issue, it will cost the corporation $47,682.94 to install wireless communication infrastructure at Horace Mann Elementary School, boosting the reception in what Assistant Superintendent for Business and Classified Staff Scott Bumgardner called “an absolute dead zone.”

“It first came to my attention during our first day when we had the active shooter training,” he explained. “We were texting 911 and also calling 911 as part of the drill and we simply could not do that.”

Christiansen said the poor reception was a safety issue, and Yarger added that most people in the Horace Mann building did not receive the recent presidential text alert.

The board unanimously approved the bid from J&K Communications, of Columbia City, to provide the one-time service.

In other action taken by the board:

• The 2019 budget, capital projects fund plan and bus replacement plans were all unanimously approved as presented.

• The Junior ROTC program was unanimously approved. Superintendent Randy Harris said the program is contingent on having enough students participating in the program.

• The PL221 School Improvement plans were also approved for the 2018-19 school year. Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Chad Daugherty said the improvement will bring the plans in compliance with the Every Student Succeed Act (ESSA).

• John Branham was unanimously reappointed by a voice vote as a trustee to the Huntington City-Township Public Library Board, representing HCCSC.

• The board also accepted recommended updates to the corporation’s records retention schedule and county local general retention schedule with a 7-0 vote. The updates include how long HCCSC records must be kept before they can be destroyed.

The next school board meeting is set for Monday, Oct. 22, at 7 p.m. at Salamonie School.