Busy construction season slows work on Butler County elementary school

Construction projects around the region are impacting the cost of at least one Butler County school project, forcing the costs up and requiring a plan for reducing those costs.

The Oxford board of education heard that update about Marshall Elementary School late last month.

“There is an immense amount of construction going on in our region,” architect Charlie Jahnigen said in explaining one of the causes of cost increases for projects. The price of steel is another.

District Treasurer and CFO Mike Davis introduced the topic by saying the board gave the go-ahead on the project at a Sept. 13 work session, at which estimated costs were provided.

“Since then, the bids came in about $700,000 higher than the estimate. We’ve been looking at ways to get costs down,” Davis told the board. “There are no changes in the design. They were successful to some extent (in getting that figure reduced).”

Ben Posey, of Robertson Construction the district’s construction manager at risk, said he and Jahnigen were involved in phone calls with subcontractors who had made bids on the project to try to reduce the cost. They did find some cost cuts and got extensions for the bids to stay valid, but that will only go until Jan. 31. Bids went out in November and were opened in December.

“We worked to bring down costs without compromising the building,” Posey said. “The phone calls were pretty arduous, about 30 calls. The best bidders said they would hold them until Jan. 31. After Jan. 31, I cannot guarantee I can make the numbers stick.”

He said they have pretty much worked through possible cost reductions with the subcontractors but he is hopeful of being able to stick to the planned March 2 date to begin sitework.

In his preview of the presentation to the board, Davis said that $700,000 estimate shortage has been reduced to approximately $389,000 through those phone calls and changes to the plans, but there is still work ahead.

“Ben and Charlie made great progress,” he said. “We are still looking at March 2 shovel in the ground.”

There is still a major hurdle to overcome. The design plan includes 24 alternates which could be added to the project but are not part of the base bid because they are not included in the state’s specs for school buildings. The district will need to decide which of those should be added and, of course, how to pay for them.

“The next step is not unlike what was done at Kramer. We will need a work session to talk about alternates,” Davis said. “There are 24 different alternates. We need to look at alternates and there will be some.”

The difference is that Kramer bids came in under the estimates which provided some money to pay for alternates. One of those was the addition of sound-dampening acoustic baffles attached to the walls to soften the effects of noise in the cafeteria area. They were also added to the ceiling in the media center.

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