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BOE Gives Thumbs-up to Hillside Budget, Construction Schedule

HCS Nearing Final Leg of Renovations Run

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HARRISON – The first Informational/Discussion agenda item for the May 10 meeting of the Harrison Community Schools Board of Education was recognition of students who had achieved academic honors, valedictorians, and salutatorian. Board president Chad Hathcock read out the BOE’s acknowledgment of students’ accomplishments:

“Please recognize these fine men and women for their hard work throughout their high school career,” he said. “We wish you the best in your future endeavors. We have six valedictorians and one salutatorian, and 36 students who are listed with honors, high honors and highest honors. Congratulations, Class of 2021.”

Tyler Lewandowski, one of the six valedictorians, attended the BOE meeting and after gratefully accepting the board’s congratulations and a round of applause, voiced his thanks and quickly departed the meeting, hurrying off to baseball practice.

It was noted that there will be 69 graduates this year: 57 HHS students and 12 alternative education students. That, of course, means that with 36 students achieving those academic honors, nearly one-half of the Class of 2021 graduates had attained the level of high/highest honors.

This meeting did not require any action regarding the district’s virtual learning plan, as school would recess for the summer and no action would need to be approved for June. Superintendent Rick Foote did say that although it would be preferred students could resume regular learning in the fall, there are still many unknowns and until the district receives further guidance, it must be prepared for whatever programming is needed.

The HCS renovation’s former project manager Jeff Bates, now director of construction management for Wolgast Corp., attended the May 10 meeting to inform the board about the status of contractor bids for the Hillside Elementary School renovation, the third segment of the massive renovations/construction of its school buildings. He was accompanied by Chris Eis, new project manager for the Harrison school buildings renovations.

Bates spoke of the project budget, noting that increased construction costs would raise the original estimated cost of $1.8 million up to $1.9 million, but that the amount the Larson Elementary School project was coming in under budget would more than offset the difference. He said some of that change from the original projected scope of the bond issue four years ago, was due to changes in projected use of the facility.

“The architects and engineers came up with some ideas, too, after spending some time with staff and looking at what the use was going to be for the facility,” Bates said. “That, coupled with the price of materials and the cost of construction is just changing greatly. In the last few months, let alone the last few years.”

He noted that the influx of ESSER [air quality improvement] funds will help offset some of those costs.

“The bottom line is you’re going to end up with a little bigger project,” Bates said. “But you’re still going to be able to afford to do it because of the additional funding coming in from the federal government. It’s a really good use of the funds, and you’re going to end up with a better end project at day’s end.”

Addressing bids for the Hillside project, Bates explained that the bids were separated into two categories due to the Davis-Bacon Wage Act. [The Davis-Bacon Wage Act requires employers to pay workers at least the locally prevailing wage and fringe benefits on federal construction projects of more than $2,000 and are the minimum employers must pay workers.]

He said the Act didn’t affect a lot of the bidding contractors, and in this case it was only one of the three bids being presented to the board, and that contractor had to add to its wages to meet the Davis-Bacon requirement. The ESSER funds were applicable to only three of the bids presented: the glass and glazing contractor Denali Construction; mechanicals contractor Johnson & Wood; and temperature controls contractor Air N Energy [the only bidder].

Bates said the balance of the work, to be provided by roughly 12-15 contractors, will be paid for out of the original bond funds. He noted that while last year the Larson project was coming in about $1 million under budget when contractors were getting back to work or “were hungry,” it is now late in the bidding cycle and most contractors are booked through the summer – and have been since the first of the year. Bates said the project had been pushed out a bit later in the year in order to attract more bidders.

“I think it worked,” he said. “We had pretty good numbers of bidders, except for a couple, like energy controls.”

Addressing the rise in materials cost, Bates noted speaking with a roofing contractor for a standing-seam metal roof budget number, and the contractor said he could provide a number “today,” but that his steel suppliers were saying to add at least 10% every month, indefinitely – at least through the rest of the year.

“And there are stories of prices being held for 24 hours when they get bids by suppliers,” Bates said.

When asked about the timeline for the Hillside project, Bates said that, for the most part, work would start right after July 4 when work would start on the new administration offices in the portion of the building fronting on Main Street. He said admin staff move-in is hoped to happen sometime in October. Then there will be two demolitions, done in immediate succession.

Foote said it is hoped that preschool can be moved from one end of the building into the renovated area by Christmas. He said it is also intended that Alternative Ed be brought to the Hillside building, enabling things at the high school to “be spread out” a bit. Foote also noted that the ’38 building would be the last to come down.

Bates added that, while it is hoped everything can be done by the end of the year, some of the things that have to be done are weather-sensitive. He cited limitations on the ability to patch parking lots due to asphalt plants shutting down around deer season.

“There’s a good chance we’ll have to put some stone fill in the parking lot to flush things out, get us through the winter and then come back and do that,” Bates said. “Seeding and prep of areas that have to be turned back into lawn areas, or sidewalks – hopefully, we’ll have a decent late fall and early winter and be able to get the majority of it done.”

Asked about progress on the Larson project, Bates replied that it was “going great” and things were ahead of schedule.

“What we’re working on right now is the last of the addition,” he said. “And we weren’t planning on that until school got out. The addition, except for a few little minor details, is essentially done.”

Although Larson is a smaller area, Bates likened the construction of classrooms in the original building with the work that was done at the high school. He also noted some recent changes in the media center area which will add to the functionality of the space.

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