Lyseth Elementary School is the latest city project to provide a harsh lesson in the math of public construction.

Members of a district-wide building committee and the Lyseth building committee will meet at the school Thursday night to discuss how to move forward after two renovation bids were at least $2.8 million higher than the $11.7 million estimate for renovations and expansion.

“It is a conundrum for sure, obviously we have ‘X’ amount of dollars and four schools to renovate,” school board member Sarah Thompson said Monday.

The bids were opened April 16, and the planning board approved the site plan Tuesday.

Jim Lobley of the city purchasing office said Ducas Construction bid $14.7 million, while Hardypond Construction bid $14.5 million.

The school district’s “Buildings for Our Future” initiative pegged the total cost of Lyseth work at $15 million, which included the “soft costs” of design, permitting and consultant work. A Feb. 21 board presentation by Harriman Architects estimated construction costs alone at $11.7 million.

Superintendent Xavier Botana said on Monday that the options include moving ahead with one of the higher bids; paring the project back, but not so much that it would have to be sent out for new bids; or making substantial changes that would require new bids.

“There is a scope we are trying to meet, and the scope of the Lyseth project is significantly different from what we originally envisioned,” Botana said, adding that the site plan review should not be affected.

Late last year, as Harriman moved ahead on the final design, a school bus loop and some planned parking were removed from the plan. The project would add an 11,000-square-foot gymnasium and 3,400 square feet of office space to the 50,000-square-foot school.

“I’m not sure we can pare down any more, it is not like we are renovating even into the side house of the Taj Mahal,” Thompson said. “We are trying to get things up to the 21st-century learning.”

The Lyseth renovation is one of four school projects planned over the next five years and funded by a $64.4 million bond approved by voters in November 2017. Longfellow, Presumpscot and Reiche elementary schools also are slated for improvements and expansions.

Thompson said if costs continue to escalate, it is possible the board might have to return to the City Council or voters to fund its commitment to renovating the four elementary schools.

Closing other schools is not an option because the recent facilities study shows city elementary schools are at 80 percent capacity.

Thompson noted that voters passed a bond that was reduced from the $70 million first sought by the school district in the summer of 2016.

It’s not the first time this year that a bid for a city construction project has exceeded the estimated cost. Four sewer separation projects planned to help comply with a state and federal mandate to reduce wastewater flow into Casco Bay also drew bids above city cost estimates.

Public Works Director Chris Branch said this month that two of the projects will go back out for bids this fall. Bids for the planned stormwater storage facility near Back Cove were not even opened; they were expected to be as much as twice the $23.55 million estimate.

Read the story at The Forecaster.

David Harry can be contacted at 780-9092 or at:
[email protected]
Twitter: @DavidHarry8

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