BRUNSWICK SCHOOL BOARD member William Thompson argues Wednesday against applying for a grant through the Land and Water Conservation Fund to help fix or replace the track at Brunswick High School. DARCIE MOORE / THE TIMES RECORD

BRUNSWICK SCHOOL BOARD member William Thompson argues Wednesday against applying for a grant through the Land and Water Conservation Fund to help fix or replace the track at Brunswick High School. DARCIE MOORE / THE TIMES RECORD

BRUNSWICK

Brunswick School Department has picked a South Portland construction firm to build the new Kate Furbish Elementary School for nearly $20.3 million — which is less than officials expected.

The school board selected Ledgewood Construction, which submitted the lowest bid for the job, in a unanimous vote Wednesday night.

School construction projects across the state have been receiving bids that exceed budgeted projections, according to school board and building committee member Sara Singer. Some have hurdled budget estimates by more than 25 percent, due to higher construction material costs and a tight construction labor market.

The fact that the bid for the new elementary school came in roughly $2 million under budget was a pleasant surprise for the district.

Anticipating high bids, the building committee made a list of “alternates” — items that could be culled from the project if necessary and installed at a later date, such as the stage curtain, classroom cabinetry and ceiling fans.

Ledgewood submitted a base bid of $19,552,670, with alternate projects adding another $771,000. With the bid under budget, the architect working with the school district recommended putting the “alternates” back in the plans, and adding a trio of playgrounds for about $100,000.

Other construction firms, PC Construction, Ouellet Construction and Sheridan Corp., submitted higher bids. All four contractors pre-qualified through the architecture firm working with the school board.

“Given the current construction climate we were unsure how much interest we were going to have. It’s been a very active year for contractors — lots of projects out there,” Matt Pitzer of PDT Architects told the board Wednesday. “We were incredibly fortunate that all four contractors submitted bids for the project and three of the four contractors were under our budget for this project.”

Ledgewood Construction also built the Harriet Beecher Stowe Elementary School and Brunswick’s new police station.

The new school will be built at the site of the Jordan Acres School, which was closed due to structural issues and slated for demolition. Brunswick voters approved a $28 million bond in June 2017 to fund construction of the new school, which will replace the 62- year-old Coffin Elementary School that also has structural and safety issues.

The school will house students in kindergarten through second grade, but could handle an additional 200 students and two pre-K programs. It is scheduled to open in September 2020.

District eyes BHS track

The school board also agreed to move forward with a grant application for up to $300,000 for a new track at Brunswick High School.

The town would need to apply for the grant on the school department’s behalf from the National Park Service’s Land and Water Conservation Fund.

Superintendent Paul Perzanoski told the board Wednesday that time was of the essence regarding a decision on whether to pursue the grant, because the application is involved and needs to go before the town council.

Perzanoski said the track wasn’t built to the right specifications, so there are rocks and weeds protruding. It can’t be used for home meets. The bid to repair the track two years ago came to $860,000.

A nonprofit organization, RunBrunswick, is raising money to support repair or replacement of the more than 20-year-old track, and reported earlier this month that more than $83,000 has been donated or pledged.

There are strings attached to the grant. An area around the track and school would have to be protected and managed for outdoor public recreation in perpetuity, “which is an awful long time,” Perzanoski said.

The school department wouldn’t find out what that protected acreage and boundary is until after applying for the grant.

Board members supported moving forward with the grant with the understanding they may not want to participate if the grant requirements prove too burdensome.

School board member William Thompson was the lone dissenting vote on pursuing the grant.

“I have concerns about the strings,” he said. “$300,000 to buy into conservation. Obviously I don’t know some of the details but if it impacts our ability to build future buildings and impacts our ability to expand roadways if we need to,” the school department may be giving a lot for little return.

He also argued it could leave a $300,000 hole in fundraising if the grant doesn’t work out.

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