After roughly two years of committee, design, planning and site work, the Snoqualmie Valley School Board unanimously passed a motion at its March 9th meeting, instructing the superintendent to sign a contract that will [finally] begin construction of the new Mount Si High School.
The contract was awarded to general contractor Spee West in the amount of $157.6 million.
But, before the winner of the contract could be identified, the school board had to decide whether to spend an additional $5.88 million to build the school as designed.
In the complicated bid process for school construction projects, state law requires districts accept the lowest bid. The Mount Si project received three bids, but it was bid out in multiple design variations in case those bids came in higher than anticipated for the full project – which all three bids did.
Until the board decided if they wanted to deliver the school in its fully designed state – or cut ‘alternate’ design pieces to save up to approximately $6 million and bring the project in at its available budget – the lowest bid and winning contractor could not be determined and revealed.
[Not incorporating any ‘alternate’ design elements kept the bid at the available budget. Each ‘alternative’ element incorporated produced a different cost by which to compare each of the three bids.]
Five Design Elements identified for possible Elimination
Assistant Superintendent Ryan Stokes identified five ‘alternate’ school elements that could be utilized to bring the project in at the $152.2 million of available budget: eliminate a rooftop greenhouse for the CTE Horticulture Department (MSHS currently has a greenhouse); eliminate the raised and turfed multi-purpose fields for the baseball/softball programs (do grass instead); not lighting and including a concessions stand for those fields; leave the third floor of one of the school buildings unfinished until needed for future enrollment growth; and not improving the ingress/egress around Wildcat Stadium.
Stokes told the board they had determined that completing the ‘alternate’ projects later would be more costly compared to doing as the school was first constructed.
Each school board member stated they wanted to deliver the school as it was designed -with all alternate elements – and promised to the public. They agreed to cover the additional $6 million in costs with state matching funds the district was awarded for the Mount Si Re-build and Timber Ridge Elementary projects. Of the approximate $27 million in state match funds awarded for those projects, Stokes said the district still had $7.7 million remaining which could be used.
Voters approved $188 million for the Mount Si re-build in February 2015. Then in December 2015, the board approved the option to use about $20 million of the available $27 million state match funds for unanticipated costs that arose during the design process like: re-building instead of remodeling the gymnasium and adding concrete footings to the foundation to meet more stringent earthquake code; building the foundation and parking for a [future] expansion that could accommodate 300 more students as enrollment grows; elevating, turfing, lighting and making the [relocated] softball and baseball fields multi-use to maximize year-round usage and help meet community field space demands.
“At the Mercy of the Bid”
During Thursday’s meeting it was stated that until construction projects are put out to bid, districts and architects won’t know cost if their estimates were in line with contractors, noting local construction climates can influence the bid amounts received. Stokes described it as the project being “at the mercy of the bid.”
The booming, competitive commercial construction market in the Seattle/Bellevue area was discussed as a reason the MSHS project bids came in slightly higher than anticipated.
The architects and project manager stated they were comfortable that they could build the school as designed and on budget. The $157.6 million contract price tag includes 5% of ‘padding’ for construction contingencies and change orders, as well as nearly $2 million in remaining state match funds.
Project Manager Clint Marsh said the district also protected itself from future construction surprises – or “gotchas” – by hiring a general contractor during the design phase specifically charged with looking for areas where costly change orders might occur – so designs could be altered in advance and appropriate costs estimated.
Matt Rumbaugh of NAC Architects said they are not worried about future, big surprises as most of those happen underground while digging occurs – and crews have already done most of the underground work for the project. He also said because they are rebuilding and not remodeling the gymnasium, that alleviates unexpected costs that could have surfaced during that portion of the project.
Upon the board’s decision to include all design elements and to accept the lowest bid for that complete project, Stokes revealed Spee West had the winning bid for the full rebuild project. The board then instructed the superintendent to sign the $157.6 million contract. At the next board meeting, the final contract will be brought for approval.
Spee West, a company NAC Architects indicated they have previously worked with, will begin construction on the new Mount Si High School in April, with the majority of the school expected to open in Fall 2019. The phased project will be completely finished in 2021.
For more information on the Mount Si Re-build visit the SVSD Facilities Planning and Construction page.
** This MSHS construction contract is not the full cost of the re-build project. Other costs including, architecture/design, project manager, clearing and grading, foundational contracts, are also part of the total expenditures for the multi-year project. **