CONSTRUCTION ESTIMATING NEWS (update by every month)
Rising construction costs could impact AHS additions
The Aiken County Board of Education has agreed to move toward a construction bid for Aiken High additions with the projected $9.8 million budget - although new estimates indicate the project could run about $1.8 million higher than anticipated.
Two or three years ago, construction cost numbers were good during the economic downturn, LS3P architect Allen Taylor told board members Tuesday.
"Now material costs and construction costs are starting to rise," he said. "That's especially in metals, which are seeing a 50 percent escalation at some point."
Preliminary construction work is tentatively scheduled to start this summer at Aiken High, which would get a new science lab/classroom building, as well as a new athletic fieldhouse, and eliminate half or more of the campus' 22 mobile classroom units.
On that construction schedule, the project would be completed early in 2014.
The district administration's original cost projection about a year ago was $8.3 million. Earlier in the current school year, board members agreed to add $1.5 million from surplus funds in the district's contingency account.
Taylor and Deputy Superintendent David Caver discussed some potential alternatives - trimming the size of the lab-classroom facility and the fieldhouse and foregoing a new parking lot until a later phase of a long-term plan for Aiken High.
Board Vice Chairman Ray Fleming expressed concern about taking too much time looking at a reduced footprint for the buildings. Any delay could drive the costs up further, he said. But he did suggest that the district could seek separate bids for the classroom building and the fieldhouse.
Eventually, the board unanimously agreed with board member Wesley Hightower. With so many companies now looking for work, Hightower said, that might put the district in a better situation because of all the construction projects planned for the future.
"Maybe they'll feel that they can't go too much over budget," he said. "I'm willing to take the risk that we'll be on the low side of the bid, but I'm having heartburn over this particular issue."
Cindy Besson, president of the Aiken High Parent-Teacher-Student Organization (PTSO), said she concurs with going forward with bidding the entire project and then re-evaluating if necessary.
"We can live with a dirt parking lot that we've lived with for a long time if we have to," Besson said. "But we have to have a good science lab and getting the kids out of mobiles and having a fieldhouse with air conditioning in Aiken, S.C."
Now the School Board and the administration face the possibility that other projects scheduled in the district's long-term building plan could be impacted.
"When we revise the five-year plan," said board member Keith Liner, "we'll have to take into consideration the increase in construction costs."
In other business, the district administrators announced at the end of a closed session that Dr. Kevin O'Gorman, associate superintendent for instruction, has accepted a similar position with the Berkeley County School District.