BKW approves $17M in bids for capital project, more than $1M over target

BERNE — The Berne-Knox-Westerlo School Board unanimously approved bids at a special meeting on Monday, April 22, totaling $17.5 million for work on the district’s $20 million capital project.

Superintendent Timothy Mundell had said at the April 15 school board meeting that the bids were over the project budget’s target of $15.8 million. The board passed a second resolution, promising that the difference, over $1 million, wouldn’t be made up from raiding reserves or increasing the taxpayers’ burden.

The bids had been opened on April 9 and, on the following Friday, Sano-Rubin — the construction-management company hired by the district — met with the five winning bidders to explain the budget situation, said Mundell at the April 15 school board meeting.

At the April 15 school board meeting, Mundell had said that the costs might be renegotiated, the project scope changed, or the district would use “value engineering” to find savings elsewhere, such as by looking at different parts of the project and seeing if they could be made more cost efficient.

“Each of the contractors involved … they’re brainstorming with their teams, respectively, on where they might be able to reduce some costs,” he said.

Value engineering refers to changing the ratio of function to cost, such as by finding cheaper materials or improving an item’s design. Mike Walpole, a project manager at Sano-Rubin, said at the April 22 meeting that value engineering would continue to be looked at as part of the process.

Nathan Elble, the school board’s vice president, said at the April 15 meeting that the district should be upset with the state education department for extending the process of approving the BKW project because the bids would have been lower if they had been awarded in the winter. Mundell added that the two-week process became a six-week process and that the district would lodge a complaint about it.

The state education department did not reply with a response to this or with information on the typical length of such a process before press time.

At Monday’s special meeting, board member Helen Lounsbury asked that a statement be added to the resolution to approve the bids reiterating that the capital project would use only $3.75 million from the district’s reserve funds and increase taxes by only $1 a month for the first 64 months of a 15-year bond being used to fund part of the project. The remaining 80-percent of the project is to be covered by state aid.

The statement guaranteeing this was instead made in a separate resolution that was approved unanimously.

While board President Matthew Tedeschi said that the district could not go over the $19.8 million set for the capital project without voter approval, Lounsbury said that the district could issue change orders to the project that could add further costs, adding that it had occurred in previous projects.

A majority of voters approved of the $14.8 million to improve infrastructure and technology at the elementary school as well as the additional $5 million to improve technology at the secondary school.

The bids approved were as follows:

— $2,944,000 to James H. Maloy, Inc.;

— $8,472,000 to Bunkoff General Contractors, Inc.;

— $725,400 to DiGesare Mechanical, Inc.;

— $3,100,982 to Stants Capital Combustion, LLC; and

— $2,271,898 to Kasselman Electric Co., Inc..

The total cost of the contracts is $17,517,280. Walpole told The Enterprise that these will be the only bids that are awarded for the capital project. Remaining funds from the capital project would cover other items such as legal or architect fees, materials, and furniture.

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