Changes could push F-M additions to fall 2017

A lack of contractor bids and a crowded construction market has brought changes to the bidding process and possibly the timeline for a planned $5.5 million addition in the Fremont-Mills Community School District.

Last September, district voters overwhelmingly approved a $3.6 million bond issue to fund the bulk of construction costs for much-needed early childhood development center and a 350-seat auditorium at the district’s K-12 school building. Ground breaking was expected to commence on the project early this summer, possibly in June, until a bidding snag delayed that plan.

The original bids for general, mechanical and electrical work on the project went out in May. But that process yielded just one bid, according to Fremont-Mills Community School Superintendent Dr. Chris Herrick. Herrick contributed the lack of competitive bids on the project to shrinking availability of general contractors do to a booming construction market in Omaha.

 “The market is just so tight right now,” Herrick said, adding four general contractors had expressed initial interest in the project but backed out after being unable to secure sub-contractor commitments.
The district did receive an additional electrical bid but that was turned down because the paperwork was not completed.

Herrick said the district’s current plan is to go back to bid in late October for general construction and electrical bids. The district has since secured a mechanical bid with Camblin Mechanical of Atlantic that will remain open for a period of time as the remaining bidding process is sorted out.

As a result of the altered bid process, the district decided to sever the dirt work and site preparation from the original construction bid and bid that portion separately. The Fremont-Mills school board met last Wednesday to unseal those bids. The board accepted the $192,000 bid of Leick Construction of Glenwood. Dirt work began on the project late last week.

“That’s a big deal because it means we could break ground,” Herrick said. “And that will help get the site prepared for when the general (contractor) starts when we do move forward in October. The general can then hit the ground running because the dirt work is done.”

The project was originally set to take 14 to 18 months to complete with a fall 2017 targeted opening. Herrick said a late-October start this fall means a late 2017 or January 2018 opening is still possible.
Herrick said the project had jumped through the majority of the hoops needed to commence construction early this summer so the delay is frustrating, he said, but stopped short of calling it disappointing.

“We want to make sure we’re getting the best bang for our buck, our tax- payers money. We estimate this could get us better, more competitive bids by doing this. We’re excited. We want to get underway, there’s no doubt about it, we’re anxious to get started on these facilities. The early childhood center and the auditorium and the playground area and the fields, we’re excited to get them done.”

Herrick said the project remains on budget at $5.5 million. The remaining nearly $2 million in construction costs not covered in the bond will be financed through the district’s Secure an Advanced Vision for Education (SAVE) dollars it receives through a one-cent sales tax levy and approximately $500,000 the district has on hand ear marked for the project.

The final site plan by district architect Facilities Cost Management Group, includes the early childhood development center on the building’s east side, which will allow the cramped elementary school to grow and meet the community’s growing pre-school needs, and the large group learning auditorium on the southwest corner of the building.

The project will also substantially change the footprint of the campus with “substantial” grading work, according to Herrick. In addition to a new playground, more parking and a vehicle “circle drive” accessing the Lied Gymnasium, the project includes shifting the existing softball field to the east and dropped eight feet. The baseball field will then be added on that same level to the south and east of the Lied Gymnasium.

The project is the Fremont-Mills’ fourth major renovation since the K-12 building opened in 1969. The district built additions in 1981 and 2004 and added the Lied Gymnasium in 2010.

The Opinion-Tribune

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