High bids delay LASD construction at Egan

Construction at Egan Intermediate School became another case of "hurry up and wait" earlier this month, when the lowest bid from contractors hoping to work on the site came in $2.4 million over budget.

Los Altos School District officials opened the bidding process June 8 and received four bids, which Dave McNulty, the district's director of facilities construction, described as "considerably over budget." They ranged from $11.5 million to $14.4 million, greatly exceeding the $8.8 million allotted for the school.

District officials must now wait six weeks before obtaining new bids, causing a subsequent delay to the start of construction.

McNulty presented the school board with three options at the June 19 regular board meeting.

They could reject all offers and rebid the project as is; they could completely redesign the school facility; or they could rebid the project with components of the existing design left out.

Upon the recommendation of new Project Manager Cory Thomas, the four members present chose the latter.

The PJHM architects who designed the original project recommended several adjustments: completing minimal upgrades to some bathroom facilities, canceling upgrades in the administration building and substituting the planned brick tile veneer on the exterior of the school buildings with a stucco coat.

Totaled, these are estimated to save the district $840,000. The project would still be over budget with the first round of bids received.

The board also considered forgoing construction of a new music building and locker room, which would save an additional $1.8 million.

These bids are significantly higher than the estimates that PJHM gave to the board last month. McNulty explained the high bid prices by citing the busy local construction climate.

The summer is traditionally a "peak time" for construction bids on school projects. With so many projects to choose from, McNulty thinks the contractors could demand what they wished.

"They're very busy, and if they don't get this project, they can have another," he said. "We expected it to be hot, but we didn't expect the prices to be that high."

Construction at Egan was originally set to start within the next month, to be completed before school started in the fall of 2001.

Teachers have been preparing to move their classrooms into the temporary camp school since school ended a few weeks ago; parents spent June 20 helping box school supplies in preparation for the move. But the over-budget bids have proved to be a surprise setback, and have postponed the need to move into the camp school by at least a month.

The delay also affects Santa Rita School. Construction on its campus is scheduled to start immediately after Egan is completed. The Santa Rita teachers are scheduled to move their classrooms into the camp school shortly before school begins in the fall of 2001.

With this new delay, district officials may postpone the move until the holiday break that winter, asking teachers to use their vacation time to move.

However, if the bids again come in over budget, Egan construction could be postponed for much more than a few months.

If that occurs, the board will consult with the newly-formed Construction Oversight Committee to review their options, which include re-starting the entire design and review process from scratch.

"If the bids come in too high again, we go back to the drawing board," McNulty said. "There's no way we can accept a budget overrun like this before we even start construction."

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