NORTH ADAMS -- Early estimates for the renovation of Silvio O. Conte School into a K-7 elementary school have the project pricing closer to $30.4 million, with the city’s 20 percent share coming in at about $6.9 million.
However, planners hope to reduce those figures before next week, when design plans and cost estimates are due to the state School Building Authority.
"The estimates are higher than we would have liked," Owner’s Project Manager Carl Weber, of Strategic Building Solutions, said Monday during a meeting of the School Building Committee. "In March, the likely estimated cost came in at $25.868 million, with the net cost for the city ranging between $6 million to $7.5 million. We were hoping to se0e the city’s share come in at $6.1 million."
He said factors increasing the cost estimates included $700,000 for the replacement of a retaining wall at the base of the school near Colgrove Park and $465,000 for site work for a playground on the hillside above Colgrove Park on the west side of the school. Estimates for repair work to the exterior cornice of the building also increased from $1.6 million to $2.1 million.
"The site work has gone up considerably," Weber said. "We always worry about site work costs because the MSBA will not reimburse for any site work costs that go above an 8 percent threshold. When I first did this exercise, I was $800,000 above that 8 percent. I’ve redone the estimates,
Mayor Richard J. Alcombright said the big question for him about the estimates was the cost of the retaining wall, which has not had a full structural analysis.
"It’s ugly, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t structurally sound," he said. "We have plenty of walls in the city that are ugly but are structurally fine."
Committee member Gary Polumbo, project manager for Maxymillian Construction, also thought the estimate for the 300-foot-long wall, which has sections as high as 9 feet, was high.
"That just sounds like an astronomical amount of money," he said, comparing it to the $1.1 million repair job his company did last year on Route 2 following Tropical Storm Irene. He said that retaining wall was 950 feet long and 12 feet deep in some parts.
Polumbo also questioned if the retaining wall could be done without shoring, as open excavation would drop the price considerably.
Weber said he’d already reduced the line item for the wall to $400,000, but after talking with landscape architect Julie Sneizek, of Guntlow and Associates, the cost may be closer to $500,000 or $600,000.
Alcombright said he’d like to have a second opinion on the wall to determine if it needs to be replaced now or if it could be repaired in the future with different funding options.
Weber also said he had removed $200,000 for local permitting, $100,000 for moving costs and $65,000 from the playground design.
He also presented the committee with a laundry list of items that could be removed from the budget or presented as preferred alternates. Other options, such as changing from hard plastic lockers to metal lockers, were presented as well.
Committee member Ronald Superneau, who has been on past building committees, said the bottom line should be the best possible building for the city’s children.
"I’ve gone through a building before and doing it the cheapest way we could do it doesn’t always work out," he said. "We need to bite the bullet. I’d hate to do half a job. We knew what the costs were going into this. We need to do a good job and we need to do it right."
Weber reminded the committee that cost estimates would be done at least three additional times during the project. He’ll return to the committee with an updated cost estimate and final design plans on Monday, Sept. 24, at 6 p.m., for approval.
In order to make the November meeting of the MSBA for approval of the project’s schematic designs, the committee needs to submit plans and supporting documents by Wednesday, Sept. 27. Weber said the MSBA has already extended the city’s feasibility study agreement until its January meeting, in the event plans and necessary documentation for other agencies aren’t ready by the deadline.