The latest cost estimates for Career and Technical Education buildings in the Huntsville School District are more than $500,000 higher than earlier this year. The higher costs are “part of a process,” according to construction officials who met with local board members last week.
Personnel from C.R. Crawford Construction in Fayetteville and Architecture Plus in Fort Smith met with the Huntsville School Board last Tuesday.
Madison County voters in May approved a 3.9-mill increase for the school district. The increase will raise the district’s millage rate to 36 mills and will fund an activities center, two CTE facilities and new heating and air conditioning units for the St. Paul and Charles H. Berry Gymnasiums.
Phil Jones of C.R. Crawford Construction originally said the project cost for the two CTE buildings, activities building and the HVAC projects would be about $13-14 million.
The original cost estimate for both CTE buildings on Jan. 30 was $3,788,460. On Oct. 11, the estimate was $4,307,905, an increase of $519,445.
The new estimates include $2,821,215 for the Huntsville CTE building and $1,486,690 for St. Paul.
The facility in St. Paul is scheduled to be 8,414 square feet, with the Huntsville building 20,988 square feet, according to Ryan Noble, project estimator at C.R. Crawford.
Jones, business development officer at C.R. Crawford, told the school board, “construction management and projects like this are definitely a process.”
School Board President Danny Thomas asked, “Where are we from the original estimate to where we are today? That’s my main concern and you can understand why that it would be.”
Jones said the estimates in January were for “the basic floor plans and very basic narrative of the project.
“Once the millage passed in May then you all said ‘go’ and we went. From that time ‘til now there’s been much more design development work done,” Jones said.
“We now have full details what the design is, so the difference is ... just knowing more now about what the district wanted in that building, so Craig [Boone, architect] and his team have designed that accordingly, based on district input. We’re at a point now where we really need your input as a district, as a board, on really what you want this to look like. We can make any adjustments needed to bring this project to the budget that we all discussed about a year ago.”
Boone, principal architect with Architecture Plus, said the district’s first ideas made up a “wish list.” The current plans and estimates are “here’s what we have to have, not what we want.”
Thomas said, “So the opportunity to bring those numbers down is very good, still?” Boone answered “yes” to the question.
Jones said the process that the school district is going through is becoming more common.
“The market is volatile. There are all kinds of things impacting construction costs right now,” he said. “I don’t want you to think that something is wrong, that there’s a train wreck about to happen, because there is not. Any idea that this thing is off the tracks is not correct, whatsoever . ... This is part of a process, part of a journey. Tonight we’re discussing our next steps with some input from you all.”
Ryan Noble, project estimator with C.R. Crawford, presented a list of things that could be changed in the Huntsville CTE building to save money. They include removing concrete benches to add bollards; removing Steni wall panels and using generic wall material; reducing the storefront; reducing sun shades, and using sealed concrete instead of special tile.
Those five items would save $206,769 on the project, Noble said.
Boone said the five items would not alter the building itself. He called the changes “cosmetic.”
In addition, Noble presented a list of changes that could be made with a cost estimate to be determined.
They include removing coiling doors between classrooms, reducing light fixtures and receptacles, reducing metal building overhang, reducing the number of restrooms, reducing the welding stations and reviewing the mechanical system.
The CTE building in St. Paul will be 56 feet deep and 121 feet wide, according to the plans. It will have two classrooms, two project labs, two boys and two girls bathrooms, storage spaces and offices. There also will be a pair of overhead sectional doors to serve the two sides of the building and a cover in the front.
The St. Paul facility will face Highway 16/23 on the school campus.
According to the plans, the CTE building in Huntsville will be built along North College next to the maintenance and transportation building. It will be built north to south with six classrooms, four project labs, storage rooms, offices, overhead sectional doors, 10 total bathrooms, and two outside covers.
The two sections of the Huntsville building will be 55 feet deep and approximately 300 feet wide total, according to Boone.
Based on student surveys, St. Paul CTE will be used to teach auto body shop and certified nursing assistant classes. The Huntsville CTE will offer instruction in diesel mechanic, CNA, welding and one more area, possibly emergency response. The CNA testing also could be done locally.
Noble said the original cost estimate was for $125-130 per square foot. The current cost is around $142 per square foot in Huntsville and a bit more than that in St. Paul.
Noble added, “We do this a lot and this is a process. It’s a process that happens all the time. It’s something we work through to get to certain numbers. Nothing out of the ordinary here.”
Noble added, “Like we’ve said 15 times, it’s a process and we’re still working on it and we’re moving in the right direction. We need to huddle up and make decisions on these items.”
Superintendent Dennis Fisher said he would be the “go-to” guy to work with the construction company, then he would keep the board informed. Fisher said Huntsville High Principal Roxanne Enix and St. Paul Principal Audra Kimball have worked to gain partnerships with businesses and colleges for the CTE programs.
Thomas said caution at this point is a good thing.
“Going fast and saving money, the going fast part, sometimes if we’re not careful and we don’t do it the right way, that’s when mistakes are made.”
Noble added, “We want the best value for the school district.”
Boone said construction on the CTE buildings could start early in 2020, but a lot depends on the weather.
“We’re sitting ourselves up to be ready to start doing dirt work in the worst time of the year, February.”
Thomas added, “We just want it done as soon as possible at the right way. If it costs us two months to do it right, then it costs us two months.”
Retired school teacher Patti Shinn asked about air conditioning in a new activities center and also the problems associated with having doors in the CTE buildings that open to the outside and how they would affect heating and cooling.
Boone showed on an overhead screen how the problem with the doors could be addressed.
Noble also gave an update on the new HVAC units at both gymnasiums. He projected the St. Paul project to be completed the week of Nov. 18, with the Huntsville project finished the week before Christmas.
“Everything overall is going good,” he said.
The new HVAC units at the two gyms came in more than $178,000 under budget, he said.
Boone was asked about eliminating a concrete security wall in the activities center so that temporary volleyball and basketball courts could be used. He said eliminating the wall means seating would come down to the gym floor, which would add two or three rows of seats. Bleachers could be retracted so that courts could be made crosswise to the main court.