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Armstrong School District hopes to keep costs in line on new school

| Friday, Jan. 11, 2013, 12:26 a.m.

As Armstrong School District prepares to send its new high school construction out for bids, the board of directors is looking to save every penny possible.

During Thursday night's open caucus, the architects at L.R. Kimball and representatives of Reynolds Construction Management presented the board with an update on the planning of ASD's future junior-senior high school off Buffington Drive in Manor.

“The project is running on time,” said Kimball project manager Brian Hayes.

“And we're still holding on budget with the (soft cost) numbers we presented during the Act 34 hearing (that took place in September).”

If the board approves the next phase of planning during Monday's voting meeting, Hayes said the district could begin advertising for construction bids Jan. 16.

There would be a pre-bid meeting on Jan. 29 so that contractors could gather information for their proposals and all bids would be due Feb. 14.

Once the bids are opened, the board would meet to review and award the project. If all goes to plan, the school would be completed in July 2015.

Todd Buzard of Reynolds Construction Management told the board that although the roughly $60 million construction plan is currently projected to come in $1.4 million over budget, he expects a competitive market to bring bids that are potentially lower than estimated.

“Historically, costs come in under our estimates,” said Buzard. “If contractors are hungry, they'll bid real low. And I think, right now, they're hungry.”

In the meantime, Randy Frederick of Piper-Jaffray and Chris Brewer of Dinsmore and Shohl presented the board with an opportunity to refinance another bond issue – this time a portion of the district's 2006 bond originally in the amount of $12 million which could net ASD roughly $275,000 in savings.

The directors also entertained a proposal by Dave Mattini with Kittanning-based MDS Energy Development for the district to enter into a three-year lease that would allow the company to build two natural gas wells on the edges of the 49-acre property in Manor where Lenape Elementary School sits. Mattini said that if the wells are built, each could produce up to $3,500 per month in additional revenue to ASD.

After the meeting, board president Joe Close said the discussions are in the preliminary stage and there's no timetable for any further action. Still, he said the district is open to any opportunity to save its finances.

“It's a difficult time,” said Close. “We're trying to squeeze some money where we can.”

Tim Karan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-543-1303 or tkaran@tribweb.com.

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