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Armstrong School District high school bids come in $3 million under budget

| Friday, March 1, 2013, 7:45 a.m.

Smiles don't typically abound at Armstrong School District board meetings, but that certainly was the case during a special meeting Thursday night.

After opening sealed bids for construction of the district's high school in Manor Township, representatives from architecture firm L.R. Kimball and Reynolds Construction Management revealed that construction costs came in at about $46.3 million — nearly $3 million under the estimated budget of $49.3 million. The project costs as a whole will drop from $65.8 million to $63.2 million.

Project manager Brian Hayes of L.R. Kimball said 58 bids were opened Tuesday morning in the auditorium of Kittanning Senior High School.

“We have very good news,” said Hayes. “The bids were very favorable for the district. We have quality contractors, and the district can move forward with the high school as planned.”

The bids were broken up into eight categories with the largest $22 million general construction contract awarded to Hudson Group Inc. based in Hermitage. Although neither Kimball nor Reynolds have worked with Hudson Group, the company's recent projects include the Emergency Care Center at Sharon Regional Health System, the Heritage Municipal building and several elementary schools in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Other low bidders awarded portions of the project include Independence Excavating Inc. (Independence, Ohio) for site work construction; Todd Devin Food Equipment Inc. (Yardley, Pa.) for food service equipment; Northeast Interior Systems (Liverpool, NY) for educational casework; Preferred Fire Protection (Pittsburgh) for fire protection; East End Plumbing and Mechanical (Sharpsburg) for plumbing; Lugaila Mechanical Inc. (Pittsburgh) for HVAC construction; and Vern's Electric Inc. (Pittsburgh) for electrical construction.

Hayes said the unexpectedly low bids brought ASD another pleasant surprise.

“Since the base bids were under-budget, the district has the good fortune now to add things back into the project that we had selected to take out in order to meet the budget,” he said. “The district was also able to eliminate or not accept some (less expensive material alternatives) in order to maintain the preferred product or standard that they initially intended to have in the building.”

That means the district can afford many elements for the school that were previously deemed potentially too pricey, including a monumental gateway sign for the main entrance with a license plate camera for security; a 30-year warranty on the school's roof; a partition to convert part of the auditorium into a large group instruction room; acoustic panels for the lobby and gyms; six additional scenery winches for the auditorium stage; an improved courtyard; air conditioning in the gyms and locker room areas; Terrazzo floor tile for high-traffic areas like the lobby and cafeteria; and a separate maintenance shed. The builders also will be able to grade and seed the land for the football field ahead of schedule.

“Basically, that will be ready to go for when that football field becomes a reality,” said Hayes. “You'll be that much further ahead at getting that area done.”

Even with previously purchased items, future soft costs and contingencies factored in, Hayes said the project cost should lead the board to breathe easier.

“All in all, everything included, you're still under budget,” he said.

Board president Joe Close was pleased with the bidding results.

“There are some more smiles to go around after getting these numbers, confirming a lot of hard work and a great end result for the time being,” he said. “These numbers still can change some, but it's best going into it this way than slightly over or on budget. This gives us a little bit of cushion room. It's great news.”

The awarded companies must complete certification for the PlanCon process, and the board will vote on an updated schedule at its regular meeting on March 11. If all goes according to plan, the 800-day construction project is scheduled to kick off this spring and wrap up in June 2015.

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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