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High bids put Highlands Middle School project on hold

High bids put Highlands Middle School project on hold

The Highlands Middle School renovation project went out to bid in May, but after two rounds in which only one bid was received, commissioners rejected the bid and revisit the project at the end of the year.

“I just think we need to back up and rebid. I’m not saying it’s not needed, but at this point in time, I just don’t feel like because it’s the only bid we got, we have to go with it,” said Commissioner Josh Young, who is a member of the liaison committee with the Macon County Board of Education.

The bid that was submitted was for about $1.18 million, which is well in excess of the budgeted $634,300. That money for the project is funded by the Department of Public Instruction through the Repair and Renovation fund which comes from North Carolina lottery funds.

The scope of work for the project includes replacement of HVAC equipment, as well as roof, window and flooring replacements for the middle school building.

“We did a good bit of work with the contractor in the last couple of months to really understand how those four identified scope items made up the cost that we saw on bid day and worked with the liaison committee to review a couple different scenarios for potentially funding portions of the project versus the entire project and how the impact of a future larger project to include pre-K expansion on that campus might impact this scope of work,” said Emily Kite, senior project manager for architectural design firm LS3P.

“The outcome of those conversations with the school board and with the contractor is that the school board feels pretty strongly that the entire scope of this project is urgent, those items that are on that scope of work are in urgent need of repair and that the project should move forward,” said Kite.

If commissioners had accepted the bid for the project, they would have needed to allocate $549,895 from fund balance to pay for the remainder of the cost over the $634,300 funded by DPI.

Young said that while this is an important project for Highlands school, he did not believe it was prudent to accept a cost so far above what the county had budgeted for.

“We budgeted, we expected, we planned on $600,000. It was a wise place to use the DPI repair and renovation funds. All of a sudden, we had one bid come in at $1.2 million, we advertised again, we had the same bid,” said Young. “At the end of the day, I’m not saying it’s not needed by any means, it’s needed, I just feel like because the bid came in twice, I think it’s my job in this position to make sure it’s money well spent.”

LS3P is working on designs for the Highlands pre-K project, also known as the Highlands expansion project, that would add a wing to the school and allow for pre-K classrooms in addition to more space and resources for upper grades. Kite recommended the board wait to rebid this Highlands renovation project until those designs for expansion are complete and bid the projects as one. Design work for phase two and three of the Highlands expansion project are set to be completed by the end of the year.

Young asked Macon County Schools Auxiliary Services Director Todd Gibbs whether or not the school system had time to wait to rebid the renovation project.

“It’s hard to tell on mechanical stuff, when the HVAC is going to give up, when a roof leaks or when a window comes out and isn’t holding into the frame anymore,” said Gibbs. “I don’t want to make a guess on that because then as soon as I say we’re good for another six months to bid, it falls out next week.”

Commission Chairman Paul Higdon asked why the county had waited to bid on this project until windows started falling out. Young noted that this renovation project has been on the school system’s capital outlay request for years and the school system felt like it had found a funding source through the DPI’s repair and renovation fund.

The commission voted unanimously to reject the bid during its Aug. 8 meeting, which means the renovation project is on hold and will not move forward for now. There was consensus among commissioners to revisit the renovation project around the end of the calendar year when planning should be complete for the Highlands expansion project.

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