Alpine ISD Board of Trustees held a special meeting on May 14 in the high school library to discuss the new high school construction budget with Parkhill, Smith, and Cooper architect Allan Wolf, along with Lee Lewis Construction Project Director Neil Easter.
The main topic of concern was the unforeseen announcement from Wolf and Easter that bids received from subcontractors were over budget by several million dollars. Bidding for electrical, roofing, and steel were within budget, but concrete, earthwork, paving, mechanical, plumbing, and drywall were higher than the design development cost estimate.
According to Wolf, the actual design was exceeded by 10,000 square feet over the original bond scope, going to 76,000 square feet instead of 66,000 square feet, which necessitated exceeding the original bond amount by $1.5-2 million.
In November 2018, voters approved a $22.588 million bond for the new high school construction.
Some reasons given were that a connecting corridor, the library, the girl’s fieldhouse, the dining hall, and the women’s locker room all ended up being larger than originally planned. Wolf and Easter said bids were solicited from subcontractors statewide, as there were none within a 50-mile radius of Alpine.
Trustees were not pleased with the dismal news from Wolf and Easter.
Board president Eddie Natera exclaimed, “We sat in here over a year ago going through all of this. We trusted you to tell us what it was going to cost. You told us you can do this and that for this amount of money, and now you are telling us we must cut this out. You were supposed to look out for us, and you didn’t do that!”
Trustee, Dist, 2, Joe Portillo, also expressed disappointment, saying, “It seems to me that we are going around in circles. Nothing has come out of it, and we are back at square one.”
Natera also questioned why the cost estimates exceeded the bond limit. Easter cited a tight labor market and lack of skilled tradesmen at the time of bidding, and admitted that some things were overlooked, such as the need for a fire pump and a storage tank, along with a fire separation wall, all of which were not taken into consideration at the design development stage.
Easter and Wolf then proposed alternative construction materials that would lower costs.
Wolf and Easter said construction could start in 6-8 weeks, as bids would have to be resubmitted to subcontractors, and prices could be expected in July. If the budget had not been exceeded, construction would have started in May.
Wolf and Easter reassured the board that PSC’s engineering and architectural team would be working together to come up with a plan to decrease costs.
“I know you all put in a tremendous amount of time as board members, staff, community members, and we appreciate everything,” said Wolf. “We are going to live within that budget, and we are going to go back, scrub the plan, and work the drawings to get you an awardable package.”