NORTH ADAMS -- The city's School Building Committee is still shooting for a September 2015 opening of a renovated Conte School, despite losing several valuable weeks of design and planning time while waiting for an April 30 public vote on its funding.
A $29.7 million bond for the project, of which $23.2 million will be reimbursed by the state School Building Authority (MSBA), was approved by a slim margin of 137 votes, allowing Margo Jones Architects to resume the design process after three months of inactivity.
"The plan all along has been to open for September 2015, seeing that it will most likely require the redistricting of students within the city," Mel Overmoyer, a principal with project manager Strategic Building Solutions, said Thursday during a meeting of the building committee.
He added, "Because of planning that needs to be done by the school district, we don't want to open the school mid-year. To meet that opening date, we've put together an extremely aggressive schedule."
The time frame for the design development phase is scheduled to last eight months, concluding at the beginning of January 2014.
"During those eight months, we'll have to make three submissions to the MSBA," Overmoyer said. "There's a lot of work that will need to be done during between each of those deadlines. It's a very ambitious schedule that make each of these phases in-between only two months long -- typically each phase takes three months."
The good news, he said, is that the MSBA's approval process no longer involves having to go before the full board.
"The approval process is just at the staff level," he said. "The [April 30] vote gave approval to the city's signing off on the project scope and budget. That is our budget. However, the staff members we work with will be going through our submissions with a fine tooth comb and making recommendations."
At each phase of design approval -- developmental, at 60 percent of design completion and at 90 percent of design completion -- the plans will be sent to two sets of cost estimators, which Overmoyer said will give the committee a better understanding of the actual cost of the project.
"Sometime in early January we'll have to get the project out on the street for bidding," he said. "For any public project over $10 million, the state requires that we have to have prequalified bids. So beginning in September, we'll need to start contractor prequalification process. To get the best price, we need to prequalify as many good contractors as we can -- the goal here is to get the word out."
The bidding process is expected to take two months, with a goal of a March 1 groundbreaking.
Architect Margo Jones said that while the time frame for the design process is ambitious, it is achievable.
"We won't short shrift the documents," she said, noting the firm anticipates presenting plans to the city's Planning Board at its July meeting.
Over the next few weeks, Jones' team will meet with Sullivan Elementary School faculty, along with city department heads, to go gather input and begin finalizing the designs.
"The committee will have to approve each design phase before it is submitted to the MSBA," she said.
The next meeting of the School Building Committee will take place on June 17, 5:30 p.m., in the lower conference room of Conte School.