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Board again delays awarding Prop P bids at three schools

Mehlville Board of Education members for a second time delayed the approval of bids for Blades, Beasley and Point elementary schools amid concerns the renovation work could place the Proposition P districtwide building improvement program $1.189 million over budget.

After reviewing bids Feb. 2 that would have left the district $1,209,240 over its Proposition P budget, board members kicked the proposal back to the McCarthy Construction Co., the Proposition P construction manager, and administrators, requesting lower numbers and an explanation of the overage to be presented at the Feb. 10 meeting.

But board members last week again delayed action on the bids after learning that the overage was reduced by only $20,180 during the eight days between meetings.

Board members last week also approved a revised contract with Dickinson Hussman Architects for the firm's Proposition P work and were informed that negotiations on a revised contract with the McCarthy Construction Co. are continuing.

Voters in November 2000 approved a 49-cent tax-rate increase to fund Proposition P, then estimated to cost nearly $68.4 million. However, the Board of Education last September adopted a revised Proposition P budget totaling more than $86.7 million.

Regarding the bids for the Proposition P work at Blades, Beasley and Point, which primarily involve air conditioning upgrades, the district was able to offset $312,800 in costs through a state loan, leaving $876,020 in unanticipated costs. The district currently has $832,760 to cover overages in a construction contingency fund, according to district documents.

McCarthy and Dickinson Hussman representatives were able to find additional $108,713 in reductions in the overages through value engineering, but those reductions could not be guaranteed by the Feb. 10 board meeting, according to Assistant Superintendent of Finance Randy Charles, who also serves as the district's chief financial officer.

McCarthy and Dickinson Hussman identified a potential savings of $82,683 at Blades — which, as proposed, is $546,349 over budget with $464,349 in unanticipated costs. Board members were told Jan. 12 that Blades would be $127,976 over budget.

A possible savings of $26,030 was identified by McCarthy and Dickinson Hussman at Point — which, as proposed, is $476,388 over budget with $312,388 in unanticipated costs. McCarthy estimates presented to the board Jan. 12 revealed Point would be $21,704 under budget.

No cost-saving measures were identified for Beasley — which, as proposed, is $166,323 over budget with $99,523 in unanticipated costs. Board members were told Jan. 12 that Beasley would be $158,033 over its Proposition P budget, based on McCarthy estimates.

The possible reductions were not included in overage amounts presented to board members Feb. 10.

"These figures aren't definite?" board Secretary Marea Kluth-Hoppe asked Charles.

"No," he answered.

Board member Bill Schornheuser moved to delay final approval of the bids "until we have better numbers," he said, noting that March 8 was the procurement deadline for the three projects and the board still would have enough time to review the bids again during its Feb. 24 meeting.

"In my opinion, I think that's putting us up against a pretty tight timeline," Charles told the Call, noting that if construction does not begin soon, renovations at the schools could be delayed a year. "We've had some of those discussions. It can be done. But that's part of what our frustration has been since these bids were open, in that it's put our board in a very difficult position — considering bids that were well over what we expected them to be and at the same time, we're up against a pretty tight timeline."

Also, windows are scheduled to be replaced at all three schools this summer, Charles said, which could pose another timing conflict.

"If you don't air condition these buildings and you put in these windows where the design is for air conditioning and there are only two operable windows ... It would just be a bad situation to come back to school with no air conditioning and two operable windows."

The construction manager has attributed the higher-than-anticipated bids, according to Charles, to "what they say is scope growth." In these straightforward air conditioning projects, McCarthy is contending, he said, scope, which is larger than expected, could mean the amount of equipment used in the projects, such as unit ventilators.

"That's part of their discussion. They also say that they are willing to accept some responsibility that their estimates were off," he said. "So, there's a lot of work going on right now to determine how much of the increase was due to scope growth, how much was due to the estimates being off and everybody that sits around that table has a different opinion on that."

The construction budget reductions for Blades, Beasley and Point are not finalized, Charles told the Call, because McCarthy still is investigating cost-saving measures.

"I think there is reason to be optimistic about this value engineering," he said, noting that he and other administrators, the bidders and McCarthy representatives had met numerous times to discuss cost-saving measures for the three projects. "But again, when you look at the total value of that, even with the best-case scenario, we're still going to be considerably over budget on these projects ... So, the last piece of the puzzle is what's going to happen with the McCarthy contract."

Board member Rita Diekemper said she did not believe the board could approve the bids if a contract with McCarthy still is being negotiated.

Despite negotiations that lasted through the weekend and right up to last Tuesday's board meeting, the district and McCarthy Construction were not able to finalize a contract determining fixed fees and reimbursables.

Negotiations were ongoing when the Call went to press Monday and board members were scheduled to consider an updated contract Feb. 24.

However, board members unanimously approved a revised contract with Dickinson Hussman. The architectural firm's fees increased $35,716 and now total $4,526,755.

General conditions, which mainly are reimbursables, now total $230,000, an increase of $21,000.

Charles told members that without the involvement of McCarthy, Dickinson Hussman soon will be incurring additional fees, such as printing costs. The administration is recommending McCarthy's relationship with the district as construction manager be terminated in November.

"I'm very pleased with the number we have come up with," Dwight Dickinson of Dickinson Hussman told board members.

School board President Cindy Christopher thanked Dickinson Hussman during the meeting for being willing to negotiate the contract by the Feb. 10 meeting.

Charles added, "(Dickinson Hussman) is being a team player by coming up with final numbers. It really helps out with the budget."

The school board also voted unanimously to approve budget adjustments during the Feb. 10 meeting.

The following are some of those adjustments:

• An increase of $1,111,904 in both total revenues and expenditures to be distributed among the general, special and capital funds.

• A $183,038 decrease in textbook revenue. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, according to district documents, only is reimbursing Mehlville at a rate of $74.87 vs. the anticipated rate of $93.31.

• An increase of $222,754 in the general, special, debt service and certificate of participation funds. The district's assessed valuation experienced an increase, according to district documents. The subsequent adjustments to the current tax revenue increased four funds, but caused a decrease in the capital fund with a $222,754 net gain.

• A $603,213 decrease in the general and special funds due to a "decline in voluntary transfer enrollment," according to district documents.

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