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Air-conditioning biggest issue in plans for Plum's new Pivik elementary

| Thursday, March 24, 2011

With no surprises in the bids for the new Pivik Elementary School, the Plum School Board is concentrating on the controversial aspect of the project -- air conditioning.

During a special meeting earlier this week, the board was expected to discuss whether to spend $381,800 to install central air conditioning in the building, which is expected to be completed for the start of the 2012-13 school year.

Officials with Massaro Corp. last week discussed with the board the eight general contractor bids for the work.

The base bids ranged from $13.7 million to $14.6 million for the building. The soft costs, which are architect and engineering fees, as well as fees for site work, financing and furniture, are expected to add another $3.6 million to the project, meaning the total cost is expected to be around $17.3 million.

"The bid process went well," said Dan Kiefer, preconstruction manager with Massaro. "We bid at the right time, especially with what happened in Japan (the recent earthquake and tsunami)."

The district borrowed $19.7 million, with board members planning for some of the money to go toward renovating Adlai Stevenson and Holiday Park elementary schools.

Pivik Elementary, built in 1939, has served as a high school, junior high and elementary building. Construction of the new building is expected to begin in the next couple of months.

Kiefer presented a chart to board members showing the bidders and the amounts.

Nello Construction Co. of Canonsburg was the low bidder at $13.7 million. The amount increases to $13.8 million if the board approves the alternate bids, including air conditioning.

The board plans to vote on the bids during its 7 p.m. meeting Tuesday.

Board member Sal Colella, who supports central air conditioning at Pivik, said the issue is the "600-pound gorilla in the room."

"The citizens don't work for us," Colella said. "We work for the citizens. We had 50 people at a meeting in the cafeteria who said they want air conditioning for the school. We have to make the best decisions for the citizens."

Board member Andrew Drake said residents have told him they don't want the district to spend money on central air conditioning.

Resident Tony Shreve, who attended last week's facilities committee meeting, urged the board to forgo central air conditioning at Pivik.

"Ten years ago, there were renovations at Center (Elementary), and it wasn't put there," Shreve said. "It was said that it wasn't fair (to install air conditioning in one building)."

Shreve said the district doesn't have the money -- $1.5 million ($300,000 for each of the five elementary buildings) for air conditioning.

"You can't afford it, especially with the state cutting back," Shreve said. "You have to save every penny, and you've got to do what's right and what's fair."

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