School Board Awards $32.8 Million Contract For PHS Construction
Having received seven bids for the construction on Princeton High School by October 1, the Princeton Regional School Board awarded a bid on Thursday, October 2 to Ernest Bock and Sons, Inc., of Philadelphia, for the amount of $32.8 million. An additional $1.6 million, approximately five percent of the overall costs, was authorized for possible change orders to the project.
While the school board chose the lowest bid for the high school construction, it was still almost $3 million over budget. This led one board member, Walter Bliss, to express apprehension about accepting the bid.
"This may very well be the best the school can do," said Mr. Bliss. "But we owe it to the taxpayers to show that design changes will not bring the bid within budget." He asked the board to consider postponing the decision for two weeks until they could research possible design changes in renovation and con- struction.
Other bid offers varied from $34.6 million from Hunt Construction to $37.4 million, offered by Skanska. Due to the board's limited choice in contractors because of budget, and the time that has elapsed as a result of the changing and resubmission of the high school's construction and renovation plan, many board members were prepared to award the lowest bid.
"We're not going to be able to make a significant change [to construction plans]," said Anne Burns, board vice president. "I think our numbers are as good as they're going to get."
Joshua Leinsdorf said he felt delaying the bids any longer may only cause the school to end up with fewer renovations for more money. "I'm surprised we got a bid as close to the budget as it is," he said. "Any delay is just going to cost even more."
Board Secretary Stephanie Kennedy assured the board that the bid was within their means. "My name goes on all the purchase orders. If we didn't have the money, my name wouldn't go there."
Finance Chairman Alan Hegedus said that the board should be proud of the accomplishments they have made over the past few years. He told his colleagues to remember when they thought they would never come up with a plan that was within budget. "This represents a job well done," he said. "It was a long journey, but we got there."
Construction on all six schools in the district has been slow from the start. A $61.3 million bond referendum was passed by voters on May 15, 2001, which was followed by an additional $20 million in state aid. Last October, contract bids were rejected for the high school, as well as for the elementary and middle schools. The board went back to the drawing board for the high school when bids were almost $14 million over budget.
In January, contract bids were awarded for the elementary and middle school construction, and work on the schools began in the spring. However, for the time being, high school construction was put on hold. After altering high school plans to include more renovations than construction, thus lowering the cost, contractors had another opportunity to bid starting in August. When bids had not been received by September 12, five days before they were due, the board delayed the bid deadline two weeks, until October 1. Seven new bids were received, and all were over the $30 million budgeted for the school.
Financing the Costs
According to Superintendent Claire Sheff Kohn, alternative solutions to the high cost of construction are being investigated. She announced at the board meeting that for the time being, the board will transfer the $2.9 million that has been slated for furniture and fixtures in the elementary and middle schools for use in the high school construction. According to Ms. Kennedy, this money was part of the referendum for overall construction and renovations in the six schools.
To pay for the furniture and fixtures at the other five schools, the board will ask voters in April 2004 for permission to use $1.5 million that has been saved in the district's capital reserve.
Dr. Kohn said that additional money for construction will not be taken out of taxes in the near future. However, if not enough money can be pulled from the six schools' contingencies to fund the extra costs, taxes may be increased over the next two to three years.
The bid award passed with six board members voting in favor, and one against, Walter Bliss. Construction on the high school is expected to begin in approximately 45 days, said Ms. Kennedy on Monday.
The high school's football field was due to be completed for the game against Hamilton High School on Friday, October 3. However, the opening was delayed as a precautionary measure. The next PHS game due to be played on the new field is the homecoming game against West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North on Saturday, October 11.
Plans for the
high school include a new gymnasium, new auditorium, new classroom
wing which will include science labs, music, business and practical
arts, a new media center, five new tennis courts and renovated
classrooms and administrative offices throughout the original