HS project construction costs higher than anticipated

Bids for the construction/renovation project at Penn Manor High School came in higher than anticipated, but school district officials are confident the higher costs can be covered without an additional tax increase over the original, four-year funding plan.

    Construction bids, which were opened Dec. 13, totaled $82.3 million, about $4.6 million above estimates. The total cost of the project, with all “soft costs,” including financing, construction management and contingency fees, is $99.6 million.

    The project originally was projected to cost $87 million to $91.4 million, without construction management fees of $1.7 million and additional costs for soil stabilization. Those estimates did not include an alternate bid of $1.3 million to build district office space, and about $1 million in additional contingency fees to cover unanticipated construction cost.

    While most construction bids came in at or under projections, the general construction bid totaled $55.9 million — $6.4 million above estimates.

     Only one contractor bid on that portion of the project, which likely affected the bid.

    At a school board meeting Dec. 17, project architect Larry Levato of Crabtree, Rohrbaugh & Associates said his team is working with the contractor, Lobar Inc., to reduce general construction costs, but a significant reduction is not likely.

    School board directors discussed whether to rebid that portion of the project, but Levato said doing so would be unlikely to result in a lower bid and would increase costs by delaying the construction timetable.

    Penn Manor will be able to cover the additional expenses by using more of its reserve funds than originally planned, said Chris Johnston, the district’s business manager. Penn Manor has set aside $9.6 million so far for the project and has borrowed $40 million to cover initial phases and plans to borrow another $40 million to complete the project.

    The district administration and architect will work to reduce costs and update financing plans prior to a vote on the construction bids at the school board’s Jan. 7 meeting.

    The meeting will begin with a high school construction workshop at 5 p.m., followed by the 7 p.m. committee of the whole and voting meetings at Manor Middle School.

    The high school project will replace major portions of the school and renovate others. It will include new classroom, agricultural education and athletic wings, a new auditorium and upgrades to the school’s HVAC, plumbing, electrical, fire suppression, technology and security systems.

    Completion is expected by summer 2022.