Mt. Lebanon awards contracts for high school renovation
By Matthew Santoni
Published: Wednesday, December 21, 2011
The Mt. Lebanon School Board this week awarded $87.99 million worth of contracts for the renovation and reconfiguration of the district's high school, marking a milestone for the long-debated project.
After years of planning and debating the project's scope, then six months of scrambling to trim $16 million after the first round of bids exceeded estimates, a second round of contractors' bids came in low enough for the district to move forward — and even add a couple of upgrades.
"This is a vote that's taken many years of planning, public input and deliberation," said board President Josephine Posti.
Seven contracts were awarded by a unanimous vote at Monday night's school board meeting. Groundbreaking for the project is scheduled for Jan. 26. Including about $21.69 million budgeted for "soft costs" — fees, permits, last-minute tweaks and unexpected changes, the project should cost about $109.68 million -— 3.2 percent below the $113.27 million limit set by the district and the state.
Canonsburg-based Nello Construction received the $49.17 million general construction contract.
Most of the debate Monday centered on "alternates" in the contracts, which could be added or deleted to adjust the project's cost. The board decided to keep a third gymnasium in the athletic wing and new tennis courts, costing $865,000 and $580,000, respectively.
"I have said I would not accept less than what we have now," said board member Ed Kubit.
In the most contentious debate of the two-hour meeting, the board rejected adding a new rifle range, which would have cost an extra $411,000, but made the provision that officials could add it later as a separate capital project. Though the district has a highly competitive rifle team, board member Dan Remely noted, the team consists of only 25 members, who use the range only a few months out of the year. Without the rifle range, the space is proposed for storage.
"We are going to be facing tough finances in the future. ... If it's not in the project now, it's very possible it won't be in the project going forward," board member Larry Lebowitz said.
Architectural and aesthetic considerations led the board to keep a pair of "screen walls" at the ends of the academic and athletic wings, which architect Tom Celli said would provide some shade to the windows there and visually distinguish the new wings from the original parts of the building. For an extra $107,000, Harleysville-based Reed Associates will add extra shelves and cabinets to all the classrooms and labs.
The board rejected an $864,000 addition to tie the building's heating, air conditioning, security and lighting systems together and control them from a single computer system; declined to cut $7,000 by going from six boilers to four; saved $32,000 by choosing a less expensive fiber-optic cable system; added $36,000 to have opening windows in the academic wings; and rejected an additional $25,000 to have contractors paint inspirational quotations around the corridors and common spaces.
Several contractors dropped out of the running after submitting their bids last week, including the two lowest bidders on the asbestos abatement contract. The $6.077 million abatement contract went to the third-lowest bidder, Precision Environmental of Cleveland. It was the only one of seven project components that exceeded estimates by construction managers at P.J. Dick.
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