Armstrong School District high school project must make donation for bats
At least one segment of the community will directly profit from the construction of Armstrong School District's new high school: local bats.
In addition to hearing that tentative estimates for the school are about $1.5 million over budget, the board of directors learned during Thursday night's open caucus that the district will need to make a $61,800 deposit into the Indiana Bat Conservation Fund because the proposed construction site off Buffington Drive in Manor serves as the forested habitat for that particular species of endangered bat.
Project manager Brian Hayes of L.R. Kimball said the architects received word from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service but that the presence of an endangered species is a common construction obstacle.
“You always have to put out a search to see if there are any protected species in an area of development,” said Hayes.
“When we did the Kittanning High School renovation project, we got the same message back (about other species).”
Hayes said the district could either pay the amount determined by the government, not develop on the land at all or provide additional acreage for the bats someplace else.
The project will disturb an estimated 20 acres of the bats' forested habitat and Hayes said paying the fee would be the district's most prudent option.
However, the bats stir up another headache for ASD.
“Between Nov. 1 and March 31, they go into hibernation in caves or abandoned mines,” said Hayes. “So only during that period of time are we allowed to take their trees down.”
That wouldn't be a problem, but updated project time lines tentatively has construction set to begin on April 8 — more than a week after the bats are set to return to the area.
“In order to stay on our deadline, we have to have the trees down first,” said Hayes. “That will require a separate timbering operation. It would have had to have been done anyway, but we have to do it now within this window instead of letting the general contractor do it.”
Board president Joe Close brought levity to the district's bat luck.
“Hopefully they don't spend all the money in one place,” he said.
The timing of this development was slightly unfortunate, though, as Todd Buzard of Reynolds Construction Management presented the board with an updated budget estimate of $60,244,909 — showing a potential additional cost of about $1.5 million.
“That's not unusual for a project halfway through design,” said Buzard. “Basically, we need to be careful about any scope we add and maybe look at some additional cost reductions in the next month to bring the project back within budget.”
The estimate —the second of three — is based on construction drawings that are only 40 to 50 percent complete, however, and Buzard was confident that conservative planning through the second half of the design phase should even out costs in the end.
Buzard said one of the biggest unforeseen expenses is in topsoil; the district will need to truck in 17,500 cubic yards of it.
“We've got a 68-acre site and we need roughly 30 acres of topsoil six inches thick,” said Buzard. “If anyone's got about 1,400 truckloads in their backyard, we need it here.”
In the meantime, Buzard said if all goes to plan, the entire project should go out for bids on Jan. 14 with submissions due on Feb. 13.
If the Department of Education approves construction by March 1, the 800-day project will be on track to begin in April.
The school would then be complete in June of 2015, allowing staff and students six weeks to move in before the following academic year.
In other news, Region III director Royce Smeltzer asked the board for an update on secession efforts for South Bend residents who expressed a desire to join Apollo-Ridge School District earlier in the year.
Close said he isn't aware of any recent developments and solicitor Lee Price said the process and potential debt negotiations lay in the hands of those looking to secede.
“The citizens have to institute that action at this point,” said Price.
Smeltzer also inquired about the potential for ASD to pay tuition for those students looking to transfer, but Close said the district may not play much of a role in those dealings.
“It's not our place to try to sell South Bend to Apollo-Ridge,” said Close. “We've steered (South Bend residents) in the direction they need to go… but we'll continue to help however we can.”
Tim Karan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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