NORTH ADAMS -- Although the city's School Building Committee identified some $750,000 that could be cut from the Conte School renovation project at its July meeting, one of its project managers reiterated Monday that the project is not over budget at this time.
"We're in the 60 percent design phase and this is all part of the design and cost estimation reconciliation process," Kenneth J. Guyette, a senior project manager with Strategic Building Solutions said. "As we move through the process, we receive estimates [from two different estimators] and build out the negative or positive parts at that point and then identify items that can be removed or added back into the project."
Over the last few years, the construction climate has been favorable for similar projects, he said.
"There's a good chance we could come in under budget on this project, but if we get to the point where the climate has changed, you have already identified those deduct alternates that could be taken out of the project," Guyette said.
"We have been tasked by the state School Building Authority [MSBA] to have this project on budget by the time it goes out to bid."
Mayor Richard J. Alcombright had asked Guyette for reassurance that the project wasn't over budget at the start of the meeting, as there is a perception in some parts of the community the Conte project is "significantly over budget."
Guyette confirmed that the project could not go over the approved $30 million budget, of which $6.2 million falls to the city -- the worst-case scenario is if the "climate" should change in favor of the construction industry in terms of cost.
He also explained the difference in the project's construction and project owner's contingency funds.
Unforeseen conditions during construction, as well as design document discrepancies or requirements by entities with jurisdiction over the site would be covered by the construction contingency funds and are reimbursable, up to 80 percent, by the MSBA.
Dorrie Brooks, of Margo Jones Architects, told the committee the project had marked several milestones in the last month, including securing the approval of the site plans from the city's Planning Board.
"The unique thing about this project is we're trying really hard not to tax the 8 percent site reimbursement, so we've been paying a particular amount of attention to the site costs, particularly in the area of the retaining wall and the playgrounds," she said. "We met with the structural engineers during the week of August 5, to go over the options for the retaining wall. Clearly, it needs to be done It is going to be bid out as part of the overall project package. To be clear, it has been in all of the cost estimates and it has already been figured into the project cost."
Brooks said the structural engineers will conduct borings at the site next week, to better gauge the needs of the retaining wall and the underpinning foundations of the school, which will ultimately make the cost estimations for those areas.
City Councilor Keith Bona, a member of the committee, expressed his concern that because so much attention recently had been paid to the elimination of plans to place a playground on the west side of the property, that the public is under the impression that a plan for a playground had been eliminated altogether.
"That plan was eliminated a long time ago," he said. "When we had the campaign to support the project, the plans reflected the two playgrounds we have in the plans now."
Julie Sniezek, of Guntlow Associates, presented concepts for two playgrounds at the school, which included elements that a subcommittee had expressed interest in.
"These renderings reflect what we can fit in the spaces and what we can afford," she said. "There is a desire to include pieces that can accommodate several children at once and others that can accommodate one or two. Our goal is ultimately to have state-of-the art equipment, that gives us the most play value at the most affordable price."
Brooks also updated the committee on flooring materials, lighting and accents that are currently under consideration.
The committee will meet again at 5 p.m., on Sept. 9, in the first floor conference room of Conte School.