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Hilltown Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, September 2, 2010

BKW building project bids come in $1.4M under budget

By Zach Simeone

BERNE — The Berne-Knox-Westerlo School Board heard this week that construction bids for the district’s building project have come in almost $1.4 million under budget, and also approved an easement proposal from the town of Berne, which will allow the town to drill underneath part of the track for its long-in-development sewer district.

“The delays helped us, budgetarily,” said Carl Griffith, architect of the building project, at Monday’s school board meeting.

District voters originally approved the project on Dec. 18, 2007. This included adding a new cafeteria, kitchen, technology lab, and computer classroom. There were to be two new locker rooms, and the gym would be extended to make up for space lost in other parts of the reconstruction.

The reconstruction was needed because the campus does not comply with the federal Americans With Disabilities Act. But, given the current economic climate, some taxpayers had come to meetings and demanded that the board find cheaper ways to make the buildings accessible to those with handicaps.

Some residents protesting tax hikes this spring had advocated scaling back or scrapping the project, though state aid is set to pay for about 80 percent of the overhaul, leaving taxpayers to cover about $1 million of the total cost.

Having looked at a handful of alternatives, the school board voted in May to proceed with its original $12.7-million building project, as approved by district residents in a 2007 special election. Board members agreed that the district should stick to the plan that was voted on back in 2007.

According to the district’s business official, the school board first heard about these savings on Monday night, after a presentation from Griffith on the bids received on Aug. 17.

“We’re excited that the numbers came in so much lower,” said Kevin Callagy, BKW’s business official. “But, again, those are estimates…Really, this was the first time the board had an opportunity to sit and hear the numbers. So, I don’t think there has been a discussion about how to handle the potential…being under budget with the numbers.”

Of the $12.7-million project total, some pieces of the project have already been completed, and the remaining work was expected to cost $10.4 million. If the contractors are able to complete the work at the prices bid, the district will have to spend only $9,015,552.

“There are substantial project manual specifications and drawings to assure the scope of work and everything, but it’s not a 100-percent thing,” Griffith said, asked what guarantees there are that the contractors will perform the work at the bid price. “What I had explained is that there are areas where there’s an unknown scope of work, such as underground rock. We know it’s there, but we don’t know how much till they open it up. Opening up existing construction has the same characteristic, where you don’t know exactly what you’re going to hit when you open it up. So, it’s not a guarantee in that they can’t exceed that amount, but the board would have control over whether or not any more is spent.”

The following bids were awarded Monday for the remaining work in the project:

— Of the 10 contractors that submitted bids for general construction, Bette & Cring of Latham was the lowest, offering to perform the work for $5,861,000;

— Of the six contractors that submitted bids for plumbing work, Burniche Piping Inc. of Waterford was the second-lowest, offering to do the work $478,900. The lowest bidder, Mazone Plumbing and Heating, “discovered an error in their bid and asked to withdraw without penalty,” according to Griffith’s bid documentation;

— Of the nine contractors that submitted bids for heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning work, Merit Plumbing and Heating of Albany was the lowest, submitting a bid of $1,473,500; and

— Of the 10 contractors that submitted bids for electrical work, J. McBain Inc. of Troy was the lowest, submitting a bid of $1,202,152.

[For more on the building project, and the alternatives considered this spring, go to www.altamontenterprise.com and look under Hilltown archives for May 27, 2010.]

Berne sewer on track?

The plan to build Berne’s first municipal sewer system in the hamlet has been in development for decades, and a treatment plant is set to be built on property down Helderberg Trail from the school district.

Berne Councilman Peter Vance attended Monday night’s school board meeting to discuss the need for an easement that will allow the town to bore underneath a piece of BKW’s track in order to install a pipe that will serve the sewer district, on as direct a path as possible.

“The outflow pipe for the treatment plant will go over and connect with the outflow pipe for the school’s sewer treatment,” Vance told The Enterprise this week. “So, we’re using a single outflow pipe into the Foxenkill. As our outflow goes to meet their outflow pipe, it comes close to part of the BKW track. Their concern is that we don’t disturb the track surface.”

Maureen Sikule, the school board president, asked Vance on Monday if there was some way to avoid drilling underneath the track. Vance assured her that there would be no disturbance at the surface, and school board member Sean O’Connor agreed, drawing on knowledge of similar projects. If the town were to hit a large rock or other obstacle while boring under the track, it would find a different place to bore, said Vance.

The agreed-upon resolution will stipulate that this work is to be scheduled so as to avoid interfering with school-related traffic. Sikule asked that it also prevent this drilling from happening during specially scheduled school events. The board agreed, and approved the easement unanimously.

“The track is an oval,” Vance explained Tuesday, “but there’s an offshoot of the track that heads north, for the sprint races; as it’s planned now, we will be going under that little piece.”

The procedure is called directional boring.

“That means that we drill parallel to the surface at some depth,” Vance went on. “We excavate, and we lower equipment down, and then you drill a hole the size of a pipe. It’s kind of like drilling a well, only instead of drilling straight down, we’re drilling to the side.”

Vance told the school board on Monday that the town is hoping to do this work in the spring of 2011, to avoid doing the work during the school year.

The planned sewer system for the hamlet of Berne would be the first municipal system in town. It was required by the state because sewage from substandard septic systems and contaminated wells was seeping into the Foxenkill. The town passed its sewer-use ordinance in November of 2008.

The cost of the project for the hamlet of Berne was increased last year from $2.5 million to $3.6 million. Town residents have been divided over the need for the project, and whether the town could afford it.

In June of 2009, former Supervisor Kevin Crosier announced that the United States Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development agency would be giving the town its third chunk of grant money — $600,000 worth — adding up to $1.6 million in total grants from the USDA. Back in 2004, Berne got its first $500,000, and another half-million dollars came this past March. The town has also received $750,000 from the New York State Environmental Facilities Corporation, $25,000 from the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, and $10,000 from the New York State Hudson River Valley Greenway.

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