School Building Committee cuts $1.2 million to stay on budget

With design of the new Hildreth Elementary School 90 percent complete, the School Building Committee received new construction estimates at its March 7 meeting, and those estimates were over budget. When these estimates were added to the over-budget bids for the early package work received a few weeks ago, the total construction budget shortfall came to $1,116,530. As a result, the committee voted to cut $1.2 million in spending from the project to meet the budget for the 90 percent submission to the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA), due March 19.

Wood beams are gone

The largest savings, about $400,000, came from substituting steel beams for glulam (glued-laminated timber) beams. Committee members had difficulty making the decision, because the wood beams were initially chosen to provide a tie-in to nature as well as a softer look to the interior of the building. An allowance of $100,000 was added back into the budget for a ceiling treatment that might provide the softer, more natural look the committee hoped to get from the glulam beams. The committee asked architect Arrowstreet to bring ceiling treatment samples to its next meeting, March 14.

Other large savings included changing stone pavers to concrete, eliminating the decorative screens at the porches, and reusing the existing playground equipment. Committee Chair SusanMary Redinger said the equipment is still under warranty, and its manufacturer said it could move the equipment, make any necessary repairs, and install it in the new location.

Committee members agreed some items that were removed from the project, such as plantings, could still be done if enough money is left over at the end of the project. Others, such as granite benches or the decorative screens on the porches, might be candidates for fundraising.

A subset of the building committee met on Feb. 28 and, working from a list of about 50 items put together by the design team, it prioritized the list into ones, twos, and threes, with ones being the first items to cut. There were 35 priority-one items, and when the full committee met March 7, it approved cutting all of those items for a total saving of $1,200,090.

Planning for the bids

At the next meeting, Arrowstreet will have a list of candidates for “deduct items” that could be bid on separately and removed from the scope of work if they don’t fit in the budget. Most of these items will likely come from the priority-two list, which includes color patterning in the floor tiles and the scoreboard in the gym. Arrowstreet cautioned the committee that its architects need to finish up the drawings in the next six weeks, so there will be little opportunity after next week’s meeting to “cherry-pick” items from the priority two and three lists, especially those that involve changes to the drawings.

Early-package construction is scheduled to begin at the end of April. It will include structural and foundation work on the site of the new school, and it accounts for about 30 percent of the budget. Bids were already received for this package, and the cuts taken at the March 7 meeting cover the approximate half million dollar budget shortfall for those bids.

The main bid package, which includes everything not in the early package, is scheduled to go out April 24. Construction manager Shawmut’s Ryan Lynch told the committee there is still about $700,000, or a 2.5 percent cushion, left in the budget in case bids come in higher than the most recent estimates. Shawmut said the amount of the cushion is consistent with a typical project at this phase of design.

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