On October 3 the Mecklenburg County School Board met to discuss the construc- tion cost for the new middle and high school facilities. The board members in attendance were Wanda Bailey, Lindell Palmer, Glenn Edwards, Dale Sturdifen, Gavin Honeycutt, Kenneth Johnson, and Doris Garner. School superintendent Paul Nichols spoke first explaining that the bids received to build the new schools came in over the projected cost. “The school board is in a position to either go to the Board of Supervisors to request that they make up the difference in the cost factors or we will need to rebid.” said Mr. Nichols. Board member Glenn Edwards stated that 30 days was not enough time for contractors to figure their bids and that his suggestion would be to “rebid the project and give a longer time gap for other contractors to finish some jobs and give us a better bid which would save us money.” The board then heard from the architect on the project, Mr. Upton, who pointed out that the biggest problem was that, in spite of all the efforts to attract contractors, there were only three who chose to bid. “There’s just no competition when you have such a low number of bidders.” explained Mr. Upton. “The real question is where do we go from here? Our attempt has been to look at the current low bidder, have a conversation with them, and look at some things that we could postpone and in some cases take out things that wouldn’t be too harmful.” He then pointed out that after looking into these changes with the contractor, he did not feel they were willing to make the necessary price adjustments to move forward. Mr. Upton reluctantly suggested that the best course of action would be to open the bidding again in an attempt to attract more contractors. Board member Gavin Honeycutt asked Mr. Upton what he could tell the board about the contractor who bid the project. “What [do] we do if we rebid and they come in the low bid again? And do they have any [legal] baggage that comes along with them that this board needs to know about?” to which Mr. Upton replied “The company is a large company and they are bondable so we have to say they are qualified to construct your project. They have very little school experience. They do seem to have a fair amount of legal challenges but I can’t say anything, you would need to get your attorney to take a look at that.” Board member Dale Sturdifen then pointed out “I don’t think it’s an issue of the individual company, I think the issue that we need to address is that the lowest bid is over budget. Our option is to request for additional funding or to put it out for rebid hoping that other contractors will have an opportunity to bid and give us a better number for us to work with. All of the companies that put bids in are qualified to do the job so we have to look at the recommendations that [are] being brought to us and maybe we can get closer to our budget cost.” Wanda Bailey asked if the board was to choose to move forward with rebidding, would they move forward having made any changes to the specs and plans for the facilities? Mr. Upton explained that his company would suggest some cost cutting action that could be beneficial. These suggestions would then be brought to and approved by the board before the rebidding started. Doris Garner then asked what length of time Mr. Upton would recommend giving to contractors once the rebidding is opened to which he replied “a minimum of 30 days, preferably 6 weeks.” According to Mr. Upton, going with the rebidding option will not add a significant amount of time to the building process. Gavin Honeycutt stated “I, as a board member, feel that we have done our due diligence by doing exactly what [the Board of Supervisors] has instructed us to do.” He continued “I just don’t see where there’s going to be [many] cuts here. I feel like at this point we’re playing with our children’s lives by bumping this out even further.” Glenn Edwards pointed out that small changes could save big money without doing a disservice to the children and their education. The board then heard from Skanska USA Building Inc. project manager Paul Padgett. Mr. Sturdifen asked what changes could be made and how much of a decrease in cost could the board expect to see if slight changes were made. “depending on the options that are selected and the way they will handle new bid documents you potentially save $5,000,000.00.” answered Mr. Padgett “there’s also opportunities for it to go up.” Mr. Honeycutt expressed his concern about which items would be changed and that he was hesitant to believe that more contractors would be “hungry” to bid now if they were not interested in bidding the first time. Mr. Edwards motioned to rebid with a second from Kenneth Johnson. The meeting was adjourned with a 5 to 1 majority vote to open rebidding on the new school facilities.
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