An initial slate of bids for the new Southeast High School came in a little under estimates, Wichita school officials said.
That’s the good news.
The bad news: “It doesn’t sound like that’s going to continue as we move through the project,” Superintendent John Allison told board members during a special meeting Friday.
“If we do begin to see numbers really escalating beyond what we’ve talked about, then it may mean some tough decisions,” Allison said. “Do we find funds elsewhere to cover the scope of the project we have? Or ultimately – where we hope we never have to go – is reducing the scope of the project that you all have approved.”
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Board members approved more than $10 million in construction contracts for Southeast High on Friday, including ones for concrete work, structural materials, steel work and surveying.
The new school at 127th Street East and Pawnee – the largest project of the 2008 bond issue – broke ground in September and is scheduled to open in August 2016. It will replace the current Southeast High at Lincoln and Edgemoor.
District officials aren’t yet sure whether the school building and athletic facilities, including a new district football stadium, will come in around its $60 million estimated price tag. Dondlinger Construction, the firm selected as construction manager for the project, is expected to provide the board a “guaranteed maximum price” sometime next month.
During Friday’s brief board meeting, Allison said he’s confident that opting for a construction manager instead of the traditional bid process will save the district money by allowing architects to look for efficiencies and possibly adjust the project as they go.
Instead of bidding the whole project at once, the construction manager and district work together to bid various parts of the project – about 130 different bid packages in all.
“We will have the opportunity – we already are – to look at each of those (bids) as they come in, and then we can adjust them,” said Kenton Cox of Schaefer Johnson Cox Frey, the district’s bond manager.
“In some cases, it’s not going to be as low as we’d like it, but we don’t have any choice,” he said. “In other cases, we may be able to modify (the design or materials) slightly. So I think with this project at this time, this is the best way for us to be going.”
The largest bid package approved Friday – $4.73 million in concrete work – went to Dondlinger. The company also was awarded about $127,000 for surveying and layout.
Board member Lynn Rogers asked the superintendent to explain how those bids worked because Dondlinger is construction manager on the project. Allison said Dondlinger can elect to submit a bid on any part of the project, but those sealed bids go directly to district officials, rather than Dondlinger, and are awarded to the lowest responsible bidder.