Smart Growth for Vernon, CT
Committee rejects bids for school construction

By Kym Soper
Journal Inquirer
Thursday, May 1, 2008

VERNON — The Board of Education’s Building Advisory Committee has rejected bids for construction projects at three elementary schools, as all came in over budget.

The construction projects at Center Road, Northeast, and Maple Street schools will go out to bid again in September, Board of Education and committee member George Apel says.

Floor tiles will still be laid at the three schools and a new boiler installed at Northeast over the summer, he says.

But most of the work — which includes bringing all buildings up to code for safety and handicap accessibility as well as replacing the boiler and renovations to the library, kitchen, and administration areas at Maple Street and asbestos removal and kitchen work at Northeast — will be put on hold for another year.

“This affects the schedule significantly,” Committee Chairman John Leary says, adding, “It will take another whole summer to finish.”

The town’s multi-year $68.3 million school construction and renovation project approved by voters two years ago was to wrap up this fall. It includes extensive work to the high school, middle school, and all five elementary schools.

Renovations revolve for the most part around bringing the school system’s aging buildings into the 21st century, and work at Rockville High, Vernon Center Middle, Lake Street, and Skinner Road schools is on target for completion over the extended summer vacation.

Leary said that while the bids for the remaining three elementary schools were drastically over budget, there were two other mitigating factors leading to rejection: a small pool of contractors to choose from and unexpected work added to the project.

For one very large portion of the work, only one contractor submitted a bid, and it was substantially more than expected, Leary said

School officials recently learned that the elevator at Center Road School needs a total overhaul, he added.

“That was not expected, and it came in at the last minute,” Leary said, explaining that the elevator is too small to handle some wheelchairs and doesn’t meet handicap accessibility building codes.

Vernon schools initially had received an exemption from state building officials from having to upgrade the elevator. But they recently learned that wasn’t the case with the Education Department’s Bureau of School Facilities, he said.

“Now we’re trying to figure out how to do this with the money we have,” Leary said, adding, “We might have to cut some things out or scale back some.”

Changes will likely affect only Center Road School, but so much of the work is in bringing the buildings up to code, it will be difficult to find areas to remove, he said.

As for potential cost increases from putting the projects off for a year, Leary said that might just save some money.

“The slow down in building right now could have a positive impact,” he said. “Fuel is up and materials are up, but labor costs will probably go down as there is less work to go around, and that may moderate costs or perhaps have some savings.”

Copyright © 2008 - Journal Inquirer