High school project costs cut with new schedule, alternative bidding

High school project costs cut with new schedule, alternative bidding

To save money, the Lincoln High School Building Committee is considering shortening the building project timeline. (Breeze photo by Nicole Dotzenrod)

LINCOLN – The committee overseeing construction at Lincoln High School is trying new methods to secure bids in an attempt to cut costs.

Rather than soliciting bids for subcontractors with a traditional request for proposals through the construction company Gilbane, the project team will go out to bid for certain items through the town’s purchasing department, which has access to two group purchasing options: Sourcewell and the Massachusetts Higher Education Consortium.

This method will only be used for certain items, such as furniture and technology equipment, and not for major construction items.

The money will still come out of the project budget, not the town’s accounts.

School Business Administrator John McNamee said officials are taking this approach in an effort to save money, as going through the town means they won’t have to pay Gilbane a construction manager fee for doing the same work.

“The less we can put through them, the better the savings,” McNamee said.

Nine bids have been submitted using this method, for the purpose of “obtaining alternate pricing through the public bidding process,” according to documents passed out at last week’s LHS Building Committee meeting.

When compared to Gilbane’s costs, the anticipated savings top $300,000, with $208,950 saved on landscaping, $54,257 on marker boards and tack boards, $25,496 on projection screens, and $30,023 on stainless steel corner guards for certain walls.

No bids were received for athletic equipment, lab accessories, metal lockers, signage and toilet partitions, so the project team is reviewing other “alternative sources” to procure that work.

The committee is taking other actions to reduce costs, including exploring the possibility of shortening the project timeline.

Under the original schedule, the project was expected to wrap up in August 2021. If the new timeline is adopted, all work will be complete in February of 2021.

Crews are currently working on a two-story addition at the front of the school, which will include classrooms, guidance and administrative offices, as well as the school’s new media center, dining commons and kitchen.

When the current phase is complete, academics and administration will move into the new area. That move is expected for early April 2020.

From there, construction will move into the back 1996 wing, which will be renovated and completed by August of next year. At the same time, crews are expected to start demolishing the school’s 1954 wing and renovating the auditorium, which will wrap up in September 2020 under the accelerated schedule.

Renovation of the gyms and locker rooms would begin in June of next year and end in October. In the final phase of construction beginning in the fall of 2020, the parking lots would be completed.

One concern was the loss of the gymnasium early in the 2020-2021 school year, which would impact varsity sports as well as gym classes. High school principal Rob Mezzanotte said gym classes and sports practices were mostly outside at the start of the school year, and that he felt this was the best time to lose the gym.

“As long as it’s just that first month,” he added.

Finally, renovation of the school’s 1996 wing is scheduled to begin in September 2020 and end in February.

The committee is expecting the last of the bids to trickle in during the next few months, at which point they’ll have a clearer understanding of the financial status of the project.

“Right now we need to do some due diligence to make sure everything pans out as it’s supposed to,” said Project Manager Charlie Roberts, of Colliers International. “We’re trying to recoop whatever we can.”

While project costs were running close to $990,000 over budget, saving more than $300,000 on certain bid contracts will bring that gap closer to $600,000.

“When we need to get to zero, we will,” said Colliers’ Derek Osterman. “We’re trying to be very sensitive about delivering all of our promises while considering the budget.”

The committee is expected to make a decision on the updated timeline at the next meeting on Oct. 17 at 6:30 p.m.