DeKalb West Addition More Costly Than Expected

June 14, 2013
Dwayne Page
Jason Morris

The DeKalb West School building project is more expensive than the architect originally anticipated.

During Thursday night's meeting, Jason Morris of Kaatz, Binkley, Jones & Morris Architects, Inc. of Mount Juliet, informed the school board that the total costs come to more than $4.8 million dollars. The county commission, last summer approved a $3.4 million note to cover this project and other school roofing work. "The project bid came in over budget," said Morris. "We did the bid with a base bid and a couple of alternates. The alternates that we chose to put on there, one was to re-roof the existing building and the other was to add onto the kitchen-cafeteria and dining room," he said.

J. Cumby Construction of Cookeville had the overall lowest bid of the three bids submitted at $3,534,000. The base bid is $2,179,000 to construct the new addition and $75,341 to purchase the roofing materials; $509,000 (alternate 1) to re-roof the existing building and $192,872 to purchase the roofing materials; and $846,000 (alternate 2) for the kitchen/cafeteria renovation and $12,866 to buy the roofing materials. The project also includes a cost of $986,924 for energy efficient renovations of school buildings by Johnson Controls.

"The reason we put alternates on is because they allow us to sort of pick and choose what we're going to do without being locked in," said Morris. "If we were to have put everything in the base bid, it would be a lot harder to go in and pick and choose and pull things off of the total cost. By having alternates you can say we'll do this one (project) because the price is okay or we won't do this one (project) because we won't have the money to do that," he said.

In an effort to cut the overall total cost of the project, the architects are proposing more than one million dollars in spending reductions , including the re-roofing project of the existing building. That alone would be a total savings of almost $702,000. " What we did was look at the alternates and we also looked at items that were in the job that we thought maybe we could pull out and help reduce the cost a little bit. What we're proposing to do at this point is to take the base bid from Cumby Construction with the kitchen cafeteria and not take the re-roof of the existing building. Pull that out of the project and then bid it separately at a different time. It could be in a month, it could be six months whenever the cash flow scenario works out to where you have the money to do that and then we can come back and re-bid it. In taking the base bid and alternate 2, the only thing you are not getting is the re-roof. You're still getting all the square footage of the plans. You're still getting the new kitchen. What you have seen on the plans will still be there. It's just that the new roof won't be there. You're still getting all the classrooms, science labs, FEMA corridor, generator, FEMA roof, windows, and new finished and ceiling tile in the kitchen," he said.

School officials said the problem is the roof on the existing building is already more than twenty years old and needs to be replaced soon.

"If we pulled out the roofing project from this bid and bid the roofing project separate, do you think that would come in at less money?", asked Board Chairman Johnny Lattimore.

"It could. You're probably going to have more people go after it because it's just a re-roofing so it probably would be more competitive," replied Morris.

"The more we drag our feet on construction, it's going to affect school," said Board member Charles Robinson. " If we went ahead and did the new construction, then we could do the roofing (existing building) later and it's not going to affect what's going on in the classroom. There will be more competition and the possibility of getting it done cheaper. You'll have roofers doing (bidding on) roofing," he said.

Board members decided to delay action until more study can be made of the options available to them. " I would like to sit down with Mr. Morris and anyone else who wants to and look at this a little bit more," said Director Mark Willoughby. " I really don't want to have to re-bid this (overall project) because I'm afraid if we re-bid this, it might be higher. But I do want to get a better understanding," he said.

"We're going to have another special called meeting of the budget," said Chairman Lattimore. " We've been asked by the county commission to make some other reductions (in the proposed budget). We need to do that ASAP. We can come back to this matter then. In the meantime, that would give Mr. Willoughby time to go speak to the county executive and county commission to let them know what is going on. We can accept this bid tonight as is without the roof but because that is who we're getting the money from (county commission), I think they need to be informed of what is going on. They can get with Mr. (Steve) Bates (county financial consultant) and see what the additional money (needed for a roof) would do to the debt service and how that is going to affect it. We can then come back and make a decision on this when we make a decision on the budget. We'll table it until the special called meeting, hopefully within a week or so," said Chairman Lattimore

"Whatever we do if we award the bid, I want a small exception clause to make sure our auditors approve us doing this," said Director Willoughby.

The DeKalb County School System last year received approval from TEMA and FEMA for grant funds of more than $1.5 million to build eight tornado safe rooms at DeKalb West School. The spending plan calls for $600,000 in local funding to meet a 12.5% FEMA grant match for building the rooms. The proposed addition will be constructed in the front of the school, including the eight classrooms, restrooms, a new secure entrance, an office, clinic, conference room, and guidance and teacher work area. The county is paying for additions not covered by the grant.

The county commission, last July approved funding for the DeKalb West School project in the form of the note to cover the local grant match for the safe rooms along with an $850,000 cafeteria and kitchen renovation at DeKalb West School as well as roofing projects at DeKalb Middle School, DeKalb West School, and Smithville Elementary School.

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