BATH — Regional School Unit 1 officials have chosen New Hampshire-based Harvey Construction as the general contractor to build a new high school in Bath that will replace Morse High School. The building also will serve as the home of the future Bath Regional Career and Technical Center.

Harvey Construction submitted the lowest bid for the work — coming in at just over $47 million — beating out Landry French Construction of Scarborough and PC Construction of Portland to win the contract. All three bids were within $3 million of one another.

The school district only received one bid for mechanical subcontracting work (construction tasks ranging from plumbing installation to air conditioning), which was from Harvey Construction. That bid was higher than expected, according to Superintendent Patrick Manuel.

“They were a little higher than what we would have liked to have seen,” Manuel said in an interview earlier this month.

Architect Ron Lamarre of Lavallee Brensinger said that it was unusual to have only a single bid on such a large portion of the work, but chalked it up to the fact that the district put out bids during a very busy time for construction in Maine.

“I think it has a lot to do with the construction industry right now in Maine,” said Lamarre. “Everyone is busy right now.”

After discussions with the Maine Department of Education, the district has decided to put that award back out to bid in the hopes of finding a subcontractor who can perform the work for less. Manuel said Thursday that he expected news bids for that portion of the work by the end of the day.

Manuel said the opening date for the new high school has been pushed back by at least a few months, largely due to concerns over a tight labor market. According to Manuel, contractors expressed concerns over being able to find subcontractors for concrete, steel erection and drywall work within the tight time frame the district was giving for construction of the building.

School officials had hoped to have the new building ready and open for the first day of the 2020-21 school year. Now, the hope is that construction will be complete by December 1, 2020. Manuel said that the tentative plan is for high school students to move into the new school halfway through the school year in 2021, after the winter holiday break.

“When we started to go out to bid for this general contracting, we had some companies express a concern about the tight timeframe,” said Manuel. “It had nothing to do with Crooker or the site work or that we were behind or anything like that. It was primarily because of how the labor market has changed in the construction field. That was really the driving force.”

“It’s a little disappointing, obviously. We’d like to move in at the beginning of the school year,” he added.

Voters in the four communities that make up RSU 1 — Arrowsic, Bath, Phippsburg and Woolwich — approved $74.6 million bonds to fund the project in 2017. The state is expected to cover about 90 percent of the funding for the project, with the local communities covering the remaining $7.9 million. The district has hired a fundraiser to raise $750,000 to help reduce the burden on local communities.

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