New Castle News

September 11, 2012

District still waiting for new project bids

Debbie Wachter
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — New Castle school board members are waiting to see whether new bids for the Lockley consolidation project will be lower.

The administrators are hoping a second round of bidding will bring the project within the district’s $19 million price range after the initial bids came in about $4.5 million higher than anticipated.

Joe Ambrosini, district business manager, told the board Monday night specifications will sent out Friday and bids would be opened the week of Sept. 24.

The bids will be opened in public at a meeting to be announced.

The district budgeted $19 million for the project, and superintendent George Gabriel said Eckles Architecture Inc. assured the district the project would not exceed that amount.

He said he emphasized to the architects up front that the district must stick to that price.

In July, the board rejected the first bids and agreed to readvertise. Since then, Eckles and the project manager have been working to reduce the costs within the bid specifications, Gabriel said.

Things such as the fascia, roof, internal classroom features and heating and cooling are items that can be bid as options for lower costs, he and district business manager Joe Ambrosini said last month.

Anna Pascarella said Monday night the board was under the impression the requests were going out last week and the bid opening would be mid-month. She asked why the delay.

Ambrosini explained it took longer than anticipated because the architects and project manager had to determine the best options for the best prices.

“George and I met with them and think we found the best way to do certain things as alternate bids. All of that took time and they had to revise the (bid) specs.”

Board members Barbara Razzano and Dr. Marilyn Berkely have been opposed to the project from the start.

The plans are to expand the existing Lockley school from 38,000 to 95,000 square feet and consolidate three schools into one early learning center, trimming the need for personnel and other costs, including utility bills.

Gabriel said the new bid specifications have certain items omitted or listed as options for the administration and ultimately the board to consider individually.

With its new addition, the school was to feature geothermal heating, an energy-efficient solution. However, costs for a particular heating system in the design may be one of the aspects that is not in line with the project’s cost goals.

Initially, the district was to begin construction in early June. However, plans were delayed when the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection required additional information regarding wetlands on the site. The location also had a problem with protected bats in the area that slowed progress.

The school consolidation project has been in discussions since early 2010.